The Bhakti-steps Program is a system for encouraging the congregation by recognizing their chanting and their spiritual standards. It is a great way to help congregational devotees to consolidate and increase their spiritual practices. It also offers a system to identify who is serious in advancing in Krishna consciousness, an important consideration especially in forming the first Bhakti-vriskha groups.
The Bhakti-steps Program has five levels, gradually leading to initiation. The levels, in brief, are:
Sraddhavan—chanting at least one round of Hare Krishna maha-mantra every day and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Krishna-sevaka—chanting at least four rounds of japa, refraining from meat-eating, recognizing Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and avoiding grossly immoral acts.
Krishna-sadhaka—chanting at least eight rounds and practicing sadhana-bhakti by worshiping Krishna at home and eating only prasada. Refraining from intoxication, meat-eating, gambling and extra-marital sex.
Srila Prabhupada Asraya—chanting sixteen rounds, following the four regulative principles, consistently practicing sadhana.
Sri-Guru-Carana Asraya—practicing Srila Prabhupada Asraya standard for a minimum of six months, with additional faith in and surrender to an ISKCON initiating spiritual master.
The standards of the first two or three levels can be slightly adjusted according to the place. In Bengal, for instance, where many people find it difficult to give up fish eating, the devotees added one level, between Sraddhavan and Krishna-sevaka, for those who chant four rounds and refrain from meat-eating, but still eat fish.
Here are some advantages of the Bhakti-steps Program:
Congregational members feel accepted as practicing devotees and feel that they are making progress. They feel appreciated for their devotional efforts. This inspires them to advance more and more.
• Gradual process
The Bhakti-steps Program offers congregational devotees a step-by-step approach to sadhana–bhakti. It is rather discouraging—and it is philosophically incorrect—to make people feel that one can only advance in Krishna consciousness if he strictly follows the four regulative principles and chants sixteen rounds. Most people cannot immediately aim at following all the standards required for initiation. It is easier to fix the mind on the next target (from one to four rounds, from four to eight, from being vegetarian to eating only prasada, and so on).
• Not Based on Financial Contributions
Sometimes people feel appreciated by the temple only when they give money. Those who cannot give financial contributions sometimes feel neglected. The Bhakti-steps Program is not linked with donations and it is open to everyone, independently of monetary conditions.
• Prevents Defections
Srila Prabhupada established high standards for initiation in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Organizations and individuals outside ISKCON often take advantage of ISKCON’s congregation by offering lower-commitment initiations. These cheap initiations allure many members of our congregation away from ISKCON.
Through the Bhakti-steps Program the congregation develops a strong feeling of belonging to Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Their affiliation with ISKCON is reaffirmed by their acceptance of ISKCON’s Bhakti-steps Program.
We have the Bhakti Steps certificates available in English, French, German, Portuguese, Polish and Spanish. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in presenting them to your members.