Sannyasa Candidate Assessment Procedures

INTRODUCTION

This document is a guide for assessing the necessary qualifications of those wishing to become prospective sannyasa candidates. Based on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, it begins with an overview of some of the important qualities that an ideal ISKCON sannyasi should possess. It is then followed by an explanation about the assessment tools used for evaluating the qualifications of a candidate. The third and last part offers a summary of the assessment procedure for the evaluation of candidates.

Qualifications

Fearlessness

“For a sannyasi, the first qualification should be fearlessness. Because a sannyasi has to be alone without any support or guarantee of support, he has simply to depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one thinks, ‘After I leave my connections, who will protect me?’, he should not accept the renounced order of life. One must be fully convinced that Krishna or the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His localized aspect as Paramatma is always within, that He is seeing everything and He always knows what one intends to do. One must thus have firm conviction that Krishna as Paramatma will take care of a soul surrendered to Him. ‘I shall never be alone,’ one should think. ‘Even if I live in the darkest forest I shall be accompanied by Krishna, and He will give me all protection’. That conviction is called abhayam, fearlessness.”(Bhagavad-gita 16.1)

Controlling sex desire

“Then he has to purify his existence. There are so many rules and regulations to be followed in the renounced order of life. Most important of all, a sannyasi is strictly forbidden to talk with a woman in a secluded place. Lord Caitanya was an ideal sannyasi, and when He was at Puri His feminine devotees could not even come near to offer their respects. They were advised to bow down from a distant place. This is not a sign of hatred for women as a class, but it is a stricture imposed on the sannyasi not to have close connections with women. One has to follow the rules and regulations of a particular status of life in order to purify his existence. For a sannyasi, intimate relations with women and possession of wealth for sense gratification are strictly forbidden. The ideal sannyasi was Lord Caitanya Himself, and we can learn from His life that He was very strict in regards to women. Although He is considered to be the most liberal incarnation of Godhead, accepting the most fallen conditioned souls, He strictly followed the rules and regulations of the sannyasa order of life in connection with association with woman. One of His personal associates, namely Chota Haridasa, was associated with Lord Caitanya along with His other confidential personal associates, but somehow or other this Chota Haridasa looked lustily on a young woman, and Lord Caitanya was so strict that He at once rejected him from the society of His personal associates. Lord Caitanya said, ‘For a sannyasi or anyone who is aspiring to get out of the clutches of material nature and trying to elevate himself to the spiritual nature and go back home, back to Godhead, for him, looking toward material possessions and women for sense gratification—not even enjoying them, but just looking toward them with such a propensity—is so condemned that he had better commit suicide before experiencing such illicit desires’. So these are the processes for purification.”

(Bhagavad-gita 16.1 purport)

“If a sannyasi is illicitly connected with women, all his claims as a sannyasi at once become false.”(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.17.41 purport)

Ability to preach

Applicants for sannyasa should demonstrate an ability to preach effectively. They should be preaching leaders who are able to present the correct philosophy in an interesting way according to time, place and audience.

Sannyasi life is meant for distributing knowledge to the householders and others who have forgotten their real life of spiritual advancement. A sannyasi is supposed to beg from door to door for his livelihood, but this does not mean that he is a beggar. Humility is also one of the qualifications of a transcendentally situated person, and out of sheer humility the sannyasi goes from door to door, not exactly for the purpose of begging, but to see the householders and awaken them to Krsna consciousness. This is the duty of a sannyasi. If he is actually advanced and so ordered by his spiritual master, he should preach Krsna consciousness with logic and understanding, and if one is not so advanced he should not accept the renounced order of life.”

(Bhagavad-gita 16.1 purport)

“Om Visnupada Paramhamsa Parivrajakavarya Astottara-sata Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja Prabhupada was creating more brahmacaris and sannyasis for preaching work.”

(Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 7.3Bombay, March 29, 1971)

 

“So actually anyone in this institution, they are all acting for Krishna, but this sannyasa order is accepted in pursuance of the great acaryas, as we have already explained, great acaryas. So for preaching work, especially in India, preachers are generally sannyasi.”

(Sannyasa initiation of Sudama dasa, Tokyo, 30 April, 1972)

 

Learned in the Scriptures 

“Yes, as a sannyasi and GBC your first duty is to read my books. Otherwise how will you preach? In order to remain steadily fixed in Krsna consciousness there must be a sound philosophical understanding. Otherwise it will become only sentiment. Whenever you find time please read my books. Shortly we shall be introducing the system of examinations for those students who are ready for second initiation as well as sannyasa. According to the degree, devotees will be expected to read and assimilate our different books.”

(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Satsvarupa Maharaja, 5th January, 1976)

 

Possessing brahminical qualities 

“Both Narada and Sridhara Svami completely agree that one cannot be a brahmana by birthright but must possess the qualities of a brahmana. Thus in our Krsna consciousness movement we never offer the sannyasa order to a person whom we do not find to be qualified in terms of the prescribed brahminical principles.”

(CC Adi 7.67, purport) 

 

Leadership

“First thing is that a sannyasi, leader, they should behave themselves according to the rules and regulations. And then ask others to follow.”

(Room conversations with sannyasis – March 15, 1974, Vrndavana)

 

 Submission and cooperation with authorities

“Now you are my elder disciples and both of you are sannyasi and also advanced in Krsna consciousness, so these questions should not arise amongst you again and again. That means everyone is not conscientious. These things are not new to you, why do you continually ask these questions? The GBC authority must be accepted under all circumstances, not that there will be fighting amongst you. This fighting spirit will destroy everything, but what can I do, you American and European boys are trained up in this fighting attitude. Now put it aside and simply work cooperatively for spreading this movement all over the world.”

(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Bali Mardan and Pusta Krsna, 18th September, 1972)

 

Strictly follow rules and regulations

“Recently I have received from one sannyasi complaint about another sannyasi who is not chanting regularly. So our view is that we shall be strictly following the rules and regulations.”

(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Hamsaduta, 11th April, 1972)

“The standards I have already given you, now try to maintain them at all times under standard procedure. Do not try to innovate or create anything or manufacture anything, that will ruin everything. Simply do as I am doing and be always serious and sincere to serve Krsna, and He will give you intelligence how to do everything.”

(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Bali Mardan and Pusta Krsna, 18th September, 1972)

 

ASSESSMENT TOOLS

 

To evaluate a sannyasa candidate, members of the assessment team receive information about the candidate from different sources. The information is of two kinds: general data and evaluation reports.

 

A. General Data

 

  1. Candidate’s History on the Waiting List

This a document with a record, for at least the last five years, of the candidates’ placement on the sannyasa waiting list.

 

  1. List Candidate/Mentor/Recommending GBC and Proposed Sannyasa Guru

This document lists the candidate’s mentor, recommending GBC and proposed sannyasa guru.

 

  1. General Data of the Candidate

A list of the following information for each candidate:

Age

Number of years left to be on the waiting list

Marriage status (divorced/settled/never married)

Dates of 1st/2nd initiation

Recommending regional council

Recommending GBC

Proposed sannyasa guru

Mentors

Whether the sannyasa candidate submitted the required annual report

Whether the sannyasa candidate passed the required Bhakti Sastri examination

Primary areas where the candidate/applicant preaches

Area where candidate fulfilled a mission given by the GBC EC and the GBC Sannyasa Ministry

 

  1. Devotional Service History

Each devotee applying to become a sannyasa candidate writes a history of the services he has performed in ISKCON. The text can be viewed on the sannyasa candidate website: -> sannyasacandidates.com -> candidates -> Bio-presentations Sannyasa Candidates.

 

  1. Sannyasa Candidate Travel Itinerary

All sannyasa candidates are required to submit their travel itinerary at latest two weeks after the end of each quarter. All the received itineraries for each candidate are stored in a document-file with the following name-format: IT+name candidate+year. The data concerns a list of all places visited by the candidate and the period of visit.

 

  1. Attendance at Different Educational Seminars

All sannyasa candidates are required to attend different educational seminars such as the Spiritual Leadership Seminar (Guru Seminar). Feedback on the candidate may come from the teachers of the seminars.

 

  1. Interviews

All sannyasa candidates are interviewed by a committee when they first apply to become a sannyasa candidate as well as the year they might be proposed to take sannyasa.

 

B. Evaluation Reports

 

There are different reports that are submitted by the sannyasa candidates and those who are sponsoring or training him.

Report 1 to 5 is submitted by the candidates.

Report 6 is provided by the recommending GBC,

Report 7 by the proposed sannyasa guru.

Report 8 is compiled by the secretary.

 

  1. Annual Report

The Annual Report is a report submitted by the candidate, which states his activities performed as a sannyasa candidate during the last year. This report needs to be submitted before 15 November of current year. It is concerned with the following data and questions:

 

Sannyasa Candidate Annual Report

Your name

Report for the calendar year

Date of filling in form

Name of mentor

Your postal address

Your e-mail address(es)

Your telephone number(s)

Website(s)

List the countries and cities that you have visited this year

If you like you can make some comments about the temples or countries you have visited

Please let us know what were the services you rendered as a sannyasa candidate this year

What preaching projects are you planning to do in the future?

What were your realizations about aspiring for the sannyasa ashrama, or preaching, or ISKCON this year?

Anything else you would like the Sannyasa Ministry to know?

 

The candidate can submit this report on-line: -> sannyasacandidates.com -> Annual Report

The secretary transfers the data for each candidate in a document file with the following name-format: AN+name candidate+year.

 

  1. Mentor Report

The mentor submits this report. This can be done on-line via -> sannyasacandidates.com -> Mentor Report or it can be send by email as an attached file to the secretary. The document fill-in form can be downloaded from -> sannyasacandidates.com -> Downloads. The report is concerned with an assessment of the following points:

Name of Mentor:

Name of the Candidate:

Number of days or weeks the sannyasa candidate has traveled with you:

Places and temples visited with sannyasa candidate:

 

How long spent in each place?

 

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest rating, please give us your opinion about the sannyasa candidate’s performance while he was traveling with you in the following areas:

 

  1. General sadhana

 

Chanting japa and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books                                                         0   (rate 1-10)

Attendance at morning programs                                                                                         0

Attendance at evening programs                                                                                          0

 

  1. Qualities

Cleanliness                                                                                                                            0

Punctuality (especially for programs)                                                                                     0

Enthusiasm                                                                                                                             0

Patience                                                                                                                                  0

Honesty                                                                                                                                   0

Humility                                                                                                                                    0

Sense and mind control                                                                                                           0

 

  1. General behaviour

 

Cooperation with leadership                                                                                                      0

Ability to properly apply Krishna conscious philosophy according to

time, place, and audience.                                                                                                          0

Behavior and appearance in public                                                                                            0

General dealings with other devotees, especially the opposite sex.                                          0

 

 

  1. Ability to preach:

Quality of classes                                                                                                                          0

Counseling devotees                                                                                                                     0

Preaching to non-devotees                                                                                                            0

 

  1. Ability to keep oneself engaged in devotional service                                                                0

 

  1. Qualifications as a preaching leader                                                                                            0

This refers to: 1) expertise in training others; 2) ability of setting an example as a preaching leader;

3) ability to see through the eyes of the scripture.

 

  1. Any other information that you would like to give about the candidate’s qualifications and suggestions that would help you to improve his qualifications to become an ISKCON sannyasi.

The secretary will convert these data into a document file with the following format: ME+name candidate+year.

  1. Sannyasa Candidate Self-Assessment

Every candidate requires to fill in a self-assessment form and submit it before 15 November of the current year. The assessment criteria are identical with those in the mentor report.

The secretary will convert these data into a document file with the following format: SA+name candidate+year.

 

  1. Financial Report

All sannyasa candidates need to keep track of their finances during the year. It is the duty of the sannyasa candidates to submit a financial report with regard to their income and expenses for the current year from the 1st of January up to October 15. They need to submit their report (by sending it to Lilasuka.BCS@pamho.net) at the latest by November of the current year. The report form for submitting the reports is downloadable from the following link: http://sannyasacandidates.com/?page_id=48

It can be downloaded either the Word or Excel format. The report needs to be submitted in US$ only. This means that there may be a need to convert local currency into US$. It is also important that they only use the categories available in the document.

Once the candidate graduates and receives sannyasa, he will need to continue this duty. However, at that time the GBC Secretary will contact him and request him to send the report directly to him.

GBC members who are on the sannyasa waiting list are exempt. They already comply with this yearly duty as GBC members.

The secretary will convert these data into a document or Excel file with the following format: FI+name candidate+year.

 

  1. Feedback Report of Visited ISKCON Centers

Each candidate is obliged to submit the data of the places they have visited after each visit. They can do this on-line:

sannyasacandidates.com -> Database Input:

It is concerned with the following information:

Database of ISKCON Centers Visited by Sannyasa Candidates

Please fill in the below posted form for each center you have visited this year.

Name Sannyasa Candidate

Temple or place you have visited

 

Please mention hereafter the period of your visit and the number of days you spent at the concerned temple or place:

 

CONTACT DATA OF THREE PERSON(S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TEMPLE/CENTER

  1. Name
  2. Position
  3. E-mail Address
  4. Phone
  5. Name
  6. Position
  7. E-mail Adddress
  8. Phone
  9. Name
  10. Position
  11. E-mail Address
  12. Phone

 

Do the persons mentioned above understand and speak/write English? If not, please mention their native language(s) in the field for comments.

  • yes
  • no

 

Comments

You can use this field to present reasons why you were not able to complete the data requested above or to mention the native language(s) of the contact persons if they do not speak English sufficiently for offering feedback on your performance

These data are not available to the assessment board. The secretary will contact the leading devotees of each center and ask them for feedback. All the received feedback on the candidates will be compiled into one report and made available to the members of the assessment team. See point 8.

 

  1. Report Recommending GBC

This is a report submitted by the recommending GBC. It is concerned with the following questions:

  1. How much time did you spend with the candidate?
  2. How was his devotional sadhana?
  3. In what way did his devotional service improve in the past year?
  4. In what way did his preaching improve in the past year?
  5. What do you feel needs more improvement in his character?
  6. What do you feel needs more improvement in his preaching?
  7. What do you feel needs more improvement in his sadhana?
  8. What do you feel needs more improvement in his cooperation with

authorities?

  1. Any other thoughts or suggestions.

 

The secretary will convert these data into a document file with the following format: RC+name candidate+year.

 

  1. Report Proposed Sannyasa Guru

This report is submitted by the proposed sannyasa guru. It contains the same questions as the report submitted by the recommending GBC.

The secretary will convert the data into a document file with the following format: PS+name candidate+year.

 

  1. Feedback on Sannyasa Candidate Missions

The assignment of a mission is meant to present sannyasa candidates with a special preaching opportunity outside their regular preaching areas; an experience that, while offering them challenges andbenefits local areas as well . This also allows the ministry to receive an additional evaluation of the sannyasa candidate’s preaching performance. A senior leader in the preaching area does the evaluation, which includes answers to the following questions:

Feedback for Sannyasa Candidate Mission

Name of Candidate: ________________________

Place Visited: ­­­­________________________________

Dates of Visit: _______________________________

Name of Leader Assessing Candidate: __________________________________

 

  1. Please give you overall impression of the sannyasa candidate’s visit.
  2. On a scale from 1-10, 10 meaning the highest rating, please assessment the candidate in the following areas:
    1. Cooperation with the local authorities
    2. Preaching to devotees
    3. Preaching to non-devotees
    4. Ability to keep himself engaged in devotional service
    5. Sadhana
    6. Cleanliness and physical appearance
    7. Ability to communicate
    8. Dealing with the devotees, especially the women.
    9. Any other comments you would like to make.
  3. Please let us know what direct and specific experiences you or others have had in any of the areas mentioned above.

 

  1. Feedback Stream

This feedback report relates to point 5. It lists all the received feedback chronologically for each candidate. It will be available for the assessment team at the latest by December 1 for the feedback year.

 

ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE

 

The assessment procedure is based on the data and reports described above.

Each member of the assessment team, after carefully examining all the data and reports, offers recommendations by classifying the candidate into one of the following categories:

  1. To move up the list or take sannyasa
  2. To move up the list with some reservations (list them)
  3. Stay at their current position
  4. Move down the list (state reasons)
  5. Taken off the list (state reasons)
  6. Not put on the list (give the candidate feedback)

The criteria for classifying candidates into above categories are:

  1. Category 1: candidates who fulfill for the most part what was expected of them and have received positive feedback from their GBC sponsors, sannyasa gurus, mentors, temples they have visited, and feedback from other sources.
  2. Category 2: concerns candidates that normally would be in category 1, but have received feedback from one or more devotees who have expressed some significant reservations about them.
  3. Category 3 to 5 concerns those for whom severe and serious reservations or complaints have been received.
  4. Category 6: concerns candidates who need more experience and training to qualify themselves. At present they are not qualified to be on the list.

The facilitator of the assessment team collects the categorization of the candidates from each team member, and calculates the average category for each candidate. The results of that lead to a preliminary placing of the current candidates in a certain category, which is brought before the assessment team for further discussion or voting.

  1. If the majority of the team members agree with the proposed average placement then that candidate will be proposed to the GBC according to “1-6”.
  2. If a majority of the members disagree with the proposed average placement, then either in Mayapur during our meeting or by internet the members of the assessment team can discuss where to place the devotee.

The final results will be recording on the following assessment table:

Name of Candidate Number of Years Currently Up One Year Stay the Same Take off the list Want more discussion before voting Abstain Other recommendations For Candidates:Put on the List For Candidates:Exceptions Up or down more years
A dasa 4 years
B dasa 3 years
C dasa 2 years