News coverage of Srila Prabhupada and his movement.
This article, "Hare Krishna Swamis," was published in Deccan Chronicle, August 22, 1976, in Hyderabad, India.
G. C. S. MARAR
MAN has unravelled many mysteries in his progress from barbarism to civilisation. In his relentless pursuit of knowledge and in his bid to add to his storehouse of information about the myriad mysteries of the universe he has outstepped the boundaries of the earth and turned his attention to outer space and at present he is trying to determine whether life exists on Mars.
But even though he has climbed a long way up the ladder of knowledge, the greatest mystery of all baffles him still - the mystery of God. Who is God? What is the relationship between man and God? Why should man try to realise God? These are some of the questions which have been engaging the attention of all thinking men from times immemorial.
The search for God has been going on down the ages because the Supreme Being is God and to know Him is to know the truth of all things, in all forms, in time as well as in space. The destiny of man is unity with God, for man is essentially inseparable from God.
It is this knowledge which helps man to attain the state of eternal satisfaction or Moksha. But for self-knowledge, Moksha will be impossible. And self-knowledge will be impossible of attainment, but for those Divine Messengers who throw light on the path of our lives. Whenever true knowledge, spiritual knowledge begins to vanish from the face of the earth and tends to lapse into oblivion, the Divine Messengers revive that knowledge and nourish it with the vitality of their own experience. These Divine Messengers seek to awaken man to the knowledge of his real heritage.
One such Divine Messenger is His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which is a worldwide non-sectarian movement dedicated to propagating the message of the Vedas for the benefit of mankind. The Society was founded in 1966 by Swami Prabhupada, who had come to the United States a year earlier on the order of his spiritual master to teach Krishna Consciousness in the Western World.
Over the years, ISKCON has steadily grown in popularity and influence, and today it is widely recognised by theologians, scholars and laymen as a genuine and important spiritual movement. At present there are 108 ISKCON centres in thirty countries throughout the World. These centres enable full-time members to live in close association, following the principles of Vedic life, and also provide a place where interested visitors can learn about the philosophy and culture of Krishna Consciousness and participate in its various functions.
The basis of the movement is the Hare Krishna mantra:
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE, HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE.
THE chanting of this mantra is the most recommended means for spiritual progress in this age as it cleanses the mind and enables one to transcend the temporary designations of race religion and nationality and understand one's true identity as an eternal spiritual being. In other words simply by chanting Hare Krishna one can directly experience self-realisation and lead a blissful life. The devotees experience divine ecstacy in singing the holy names of God to the accompaniment of musical instruments.
The Hare Krishna devotees, as a pre-requisite for the serious pursuit of spiritual life, voluntarily abstain from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling. The Krishna conscious life-style is based on the principle of simply living and high thinking. Devotees rise very early - about 3-30 a.m. and spend the morning hours in meditation and study. During the day the main activity is preaching Krishna Consciousness. Many devotees go out to public places to distribute the Society's books and its official journal, 'Back to God-head' magazine, which has a monthly circulation of more than a million copies in 14 languages. In addition to book distribution, devotees engage in a variety of activities including teaching, artistic pursuits and farming. The qualification in Krishna Consciousness is not kind of work one performs, but that it be done in the spirit of devotion to God.
For the first time Swami Prabhupada has introduced Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannatha of Puri in the Western World. This festival is now being conducted in the major cities of the World like San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, London, Paris etc. Millions of people relished the taste of pulling the transcendent Ratha and partake of Krishna Prasad.
Another of ISKCON's projects is New Vrindavan, a model 1000 acre Krishna Conscious community farm in the hills of West Virginia. This is ISKCON's first venture in the protecting cows from going to slaughter houses. Over 400 cows give 1200 litres of milk daily providing natural healthy products like butter, ghee, etc., and especially milk sweets like gulab jamun, rasgulla etc.
ISKCON has generated many community farming centres like New Vrindavan providing the ideal atmosphere of a busy, yet peaceful village fully devoted to spiritual progress.
Swami Prabhupada has also established the first Krishna conscious school Gurukula - in the West, a primary school in Dallas, Texas for 100 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 15. Soon after its success many such Gurukulas have sprung up all over the World. Aside from teaching reading, writing, mathematics, geography, etc., the Gurukula teaches a child how to cultivate God consciousness.
Once a year the members of ISKCON journey to the society's international headquarters at Sridhama Mayapur, 90 miles north of Calcutta and the birth place of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is the site of a 10-crore rupees international Vedic village comprising of community farming projects, high class gurukula school, free medical facilities and handloom weaving centre. An institute of Vedic studies is proposed to be established at this site.
OTHER major ISKCON centres in India are in Vrindavana, Bombay and Kurukshetra, the site of a three-crore rupee International Sanskrit University. This Project will be sponsored by Alfred Ford, a nephew Henry Ford. This will be the cultural gateway of India for the people of the World.
Hyderabad, is the South Indian headquarters for ISKCON in India. The magnificent Sri Sri Radha Madana temple at Nampally Station Road, inaugurated by Swami Prabhupada will serve as the centre of the cultural, spiritual, educational and social activities aiming to uplift the lives of the people here.
According to Sri Mahamsa Swami, the president of the society here, the devotees will hold seminars in colleges, factories, business centres, universities, schools, etc., to teach the techniques of spiritualising the day-to-day life. Deity worship accompanied by the constant chanting of the Holy Names will be a special feature at the centre. Besides there will be daily classes on Sanskrit, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatham and the Upanishads. There will be a Vedic library consisting of Swami Prabhupada's books and various books on comparative study of religion. The casette library will be a special feature here.
Devotee will travel into towns and villages and do Sankirtan for the uplift of the masses.
ISKCON Hyderabad is introducing for the first time in South India its major 600 acre community farming project, 40 kms from Hyderabad to benefit about 20,000 villagers. Besides regular free nutritional food distribution programme. ISKCON is also planning to set up a modern high yielding 600 cows dairy farm, handloom centres, nature cure hospital and Gurukula school project.
Swami Prabhupada's most substantial contribution, however, is to be found in his books a veritable storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. He has written more than 50 books so far explaining the principles of Krishna or God consciousness in a logical practical and scientific way. Through his books people are understanding the eternal wisdom of the ancient Indian scriptures.
That ISKCON, has mad a significant contribution to the intellectual, cultural and spiritual life of contemporary man is obvious from the fact that people of all ages, of varying degrees of education and from many walks of life; students, teachers, scientists, labourers and professonals, indeed numberous race, creeds and nationalities are attached towards it.
THE unifying characteristics that bring such diverse individuals to Krishna Consciousness are high ethical standards and a sincere desire to understand spiritual truths.
To make a pleasure loving and easy going Western Youth to shed his fashionable dress and make him give up his dearly cherished beef stakes, wine and women, cannab is and LSD and don the saffron robe, shave his head, hold the danda and chant Hare Krishna is no means achievement.
That ISKCON has made thousands of Western Youth perform this seemingly impossible task is an eloquent testimony of the imapct it has made in the life of the contemporary West.
ISKCON does off to the modern man a haven of refuge from the complexity and anxiety of present day life. The society has indeed set before itself a noble and laudable ideal of inducing men, and women of high character, sincerity and God consciousness.
Photo 1: Love for animals
Photo 2: CHANTING HARE KRISHNA
Photo 3: Rathayatra in foreign lands
Photo 4: Prabhupada with disciple
Photo 5: Poor feeding being done
Reference: Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad, India, 1976-08-22
This article, "Young Ascetics Honor Lord Krishna," was published in The New York Times, September 6, 1972, in New York, New York, U.S.A.
By JON NORDHEIMER
Special to The New York Times
MOUNDSVILLE, W. Va., Sept. 4 - On the crown of a lovely green hill in the West Virginia countryside, under the aluminum roof of an open pavilion, the faithful gathered this week to chant the name of Lord Krishna and kneel at the feet of their spiritual master, a wrinkled brown man named A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare;
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare.
It was the opening of a seven-day festival at a communal farm celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna nearly 5,000 years ago, and the chanters were members of the Hare Krishna sect, a small ascetic band of young mendicants in flowing robes who are appearing in increasing numbers on the streets of large American cities from Times Square in New York to Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco.
The meeting was the first such national gathering and drew several hundred members. In addition, it also attracted individuals who apparently came here in expectation of a religious awakening.
Prabhupada (Pro-VOO-pada), as he is called by his followers, came to the United States from India in 1965 to spread the word of Krishna, the peripatetic god of the ancient Vedic scriptures that constitute the basis of most of the Hindu religious cults.
In the ensuing years he has shaped a hard-core group of about 1,000 United States devotees - the world-wide number is placed at more than 3,000 - who have renounced the material world in the hope of finding spiritual redemption at death. Consequently, the members exhibit the enthusiasm Jesus Freaks, the abstinence of monks and the persistence of a sidewalk Salvation Army drumbeater.
The Hare Krishnas stalk the city streets in groups ranging from six to a dozen, thumping drums and ringing bells, chanting in the belief that the souls of the nonbelievers they pass will be elevated simply by hearing the divine name of Krishna.
The men, their heads shaved except for a top knot of hair, wear dhotis (long loincloths) of burnt orange and pale yellow. The women are dressed in saris. All wear the mark of Krishna - a daub of white clay or some other material that streaks down their forehead to a point between the eyes.
Look of Rapture
And all display the beatific look of rapture as the chanting rises in volume and intensity, accompanied by dancing and rhythmic handclapping.
Members of the sect dwell in city temples to which they have been assigned by Prabhupada, who himself resides in a former Methodist church in Los Angeles from where he directs the operations of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. They sojourned here on buses and vans with bright Hare Krishnas emblazoned on the sides; some hitchhiked and some came by commercial transport for thousands of miles to praise Krishna at his festival of birth and to listen raptly to Prabhupada preach the wisdom of 5,000 years of succession through disciples.
"Men doubt what they cannot see," he intoned as the faithful pressed around the daily discourses the spiritual mentor conducted on the grassy hilltop, "and yet no man has seen the inside of eyelid which is closed to the eyes."
Most of the devotees are in their late teens or 20's, and share a background in the upper middle class and the drug culture. Many are former Jews and while there are those who have been lured from a temporal life of intellectual achievement and status, the majority appeared to be young people who had grown disillusioned after extensive experimentation with drugs and the hippie cult.
"Hippies are our best customers," remarked 24-year-old Dharmaraj Das, while awaiting the arrival of Prabhupada at the cult's 350-acre farm in the hilly wedge of West Virginia that separates Pennsylvania and Ohio. "They are frustrated because they have learned that a life of illicit sex and drugs is not the way to spiritual consciousness."
Purity of mind and body is the path to spiritual awakening, according to the cult's saintly Prabhupada, and devotees accept rigid rules of conduct that reject not only the materialism of their city-suburban background, but also the sense gratification and free expression of the youth culture.
The Four Regulative Principles, for example, condemn "illicit sex." All sexual contact, including kissing, is considered illicit unless it is performed by married couples once a month at the optimum time for procreation. Intercourse is to be attempted only after each partner performs several hours of repetitive chanting to cleanse the mind.
The consumption of meat, fish and eggs is forbidden.
No intoxicants of any kind are allowed, and that includes coffee and tea. The final restriction is against gambling, which is extended to outlaw all "mental speculation," a dictum that denies the devotee the privilege of opinions, whether they be his own or those advanced by other philosophers or spiritual leaders.
"The rigidity of behavior and thought control has a purpose," observed Prajapati Das, a former social workers from Dallas.
"The regulations control activity," he explained. "The control of activity reduces tensions, freeing the senses. The heightening of the senses enlarges the mind, and leads to a greater consciousness."
The control and discipline of the initiates is absolute, and outsiders struck by the hierarchical structure of the cult and its elitism, its attitude toward women and children, and its rejection of ideas find it difficult to fathom why it should attract men and women of inquiring minds.
Response by Leader
The response by Prabhupada is that man in his imperfect state cannot recognize God, and only after he has freed himself of sin and has become submissive can he develop the spiritual attitude to follow Krishna.
"If you begin to give service to the Supreme Lord then you can begin to know Him," Prabhupada has written. "Your service begins with the tongue. How? By the tongue you can chant Hare Krishna and by the tongue you can taste Prasadam, spiritual food."
The initiates are expected to turn all their worldly goods over to Prabhupada and submit to the labors he and his assistants request of them. Except for the communal farm, where about 35 members live and work; most of the devotees dwell in the urban temples, chanting on the streets for donations.
The four divisions of the Hindu caste system are accepted as the law of God, and there is a yearning to reach the level of Brahmana - the intellectual - in this life or the next life as the soul transmigrates, hopefully toward eternal reunion with Krishna in a spiritual corner of the universe called Viakunta.
Inside the movement there are three areas of endeavor. The Brahmacharis, or bachelors, are the foot soldiers; the Grihasta are householders whose marriages have been arranged by the godbrothers with the approval of Prabhupada on the basis of spiritual compatibility, and the Sannyasis, the highest order, are men who have renounced all family ties to wander from temple to temple to spread the word of Krishna.
"This is a movement of intelligent men," explained Ruganuba Das Goswami, a 32-year-old Sannyasi who was a New York City social worker named Robert Corens until he was enlisted by Prabhupada six years ago. "We have plenty of educated men who have been searching for God for years and discovered Him in Krishna. They have to be intelligent to reach a point where they ask 'Why?' They see order in the universe and realize wherever there is order there is meaning."
And intelligent men recognize, he continued, that the material world's only rewards are disease, suffering, aging and death. "We are not these bodies - that is the first basic lesson of Krishna consciousness," he said. "We understand that we have an eternal relationship with God and once that is developed then peace and prosperity will follow."
Prabhupada, in an interview, mixed maxims and analogies to press the same point.
"What happens in this world is of no consideration," he said as he sat cross-legged on an oilcloth floor in one of the commune's dwellings. "This life is an opportunity to make your next life - behave like a human being and you can go back home to Krishna. Act like an animal and you will become an animal in the next life."
'Diamond Is a Diamond'
He said that the low number of devotees he has gained in this country after six years of effort did not distress him. "If you sell diamonds you cannot expect to have many customers. But a diamond is a diamond even if there are no customers."
The presence of several hundred devotees at the commune for the week-long festival troubled some of the neighboring farmers. One man chased an orange-robed Sannyasi off his property with a shotgun and battered his young assistant when he caught them bathing in his creek. But the rest of the community hardly blinked.
The festival also drew parents of the devotees who came for a rare moment of contact with a daughter or a son. "From a parent's point of view, the Hare Krishna movement is fantastic," smiled a middle-aged woman who said she was from upstate New York where her husband is a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester.
"First Steve [her son] was into radical politics, then into drugs and the whole hippie scene, and then a Jesus Freak," she said. "One year he spent in Mexico looking for a perfect Stone Age cave for a commune, and spent another year following a crazy old man who thought he was the incarnation of Elijah. All those years he rejected his parents, but one of the first rules of the Krishna people is reconciliation with the family."
A retired chemical engineer from Maryland and his wife pointed out their 21-year-old daughter to another visitor. "That baby she's carrying is my grandson," said the man. "I don't know what's going to become of him."
The Hare Krishnas preach that women have a natural propensity for child-rearing and caring for the home, but also advise against strong emotional attachments inside a family. It is recommended that children should be sent by the time of their fifth birthday to the cult's school in Dallas.
James Hammond, a college student from Maine who came to the festival to explore Krishna consciousness further, had his doubts. "It seems young people do things like this in a fit of depression," he remarked. "I get skeptical when I see all these people who've done all these depressing things in drugs get caught up in stuff like this. You keep hearing the same old cliches about how high they are on it and how rewarding it is, and the next time you see them they're into something else."
How many devotees dropped out of the movement is not publicly discussed by the leaders, who call the process "blooping."
"Bloop," explained Rasananda Das, an intense 29-year-old former medical student named Hyman Zuckerman, "is the sound the soul makes as it falls into the pool of materialism."
Photo 1: Hare Krishna children at play. Strong emotional attachments inside the family are discouraged, and it is recommended that children be sent to the cult's school by age of 5.
Photo 2: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, right, spiritual master of the Hare Krishna sect, with members at the cult's 350-acre farm in the hilly wedge of West Virginia that separates Ohio from Pennsylvania.
Reference: The New York Times, West Virginia, USA, 1972-09-06
This article, "'DEPROGRAMER' GETS SENTENCE ON COAST," was published in The New York Times, June 6, 1975, in New York, New York, U.S.A.
Special to The New York Times
FULLERTON, Calif., June 5 - Ted Patrick, 44 years old, a former community relations consultant who has specialized in aiding parents whose children have joined religious groups opposed by the parents, was sentenced today to 60 days in jail and three years probation for his role in an attempted "deprograming" of a young Orange County woman who had joined the Hare Krishna religious group in Los Angeles.
Also sentenced today for their parts in the attempted "deprograming" of Joanne Bradley, 19, were her parents, Leo and Margaret Rogin, of Buena Park, Calif., and Mr. Patrick's secretary, Sondra Sachs.
Mr. Patrick's conviction for false imprisonment came after Mrs. Bradley was held for several hours against her will at her parents' home in Orange County last Oct. 20 while Mr. Patrick unsuccessfully attempted to talk her out of her allegiance to her religious sect, whose full name is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Reference: The New York Times, Unknown Location, USA, 1975-06-06
This article, "Berkeley, Changed by 'the Movement,' Is Still Center of Ferment," was published in The New York Times, August 6, 1975, in New York, New York, U.S.A.
By WALLACE TURNER
Special to The New York Times
BERKELEY, Calif., Aug. 5 - The hair was shoulder-length on the policeman on Telegraph Avenue, where he arbitrated a dispute over merchant sales space. The jogger leaving City Hall wore gym shorts and was berefoot, but carried a receipt for a traffic fine he'd paid. The old man on University Avenue blew his nose in his hand and glared defiantly as he wiped his palm on the seat of his pants.
The Hare Krishna religious order had erected a tent of sheets on the sidewalk at the edge of the University of California campus. Children with their heads shaved played on the shade.
A fat, black-bearded man had set up his papier-mache, gold-painted calf alongside a tree a few feet away and was ready to begin religious services.
This is still Berkeley, where the social ferment yet bubbles. Although significant change has come as the "movement" people came to political power and were forced to find solutions, the draft of revolt still is felt here.
Property Taxes Soar
Some of the problems that were inherited on electoral victory by the left are deep and longstanding. Housing is in short supply and priced out of reach of many who want to live here.
Property taxes have climbed wildly and may yet take another jump since that may be the only way public agencies can meet rapidly increasing budgets. The school system is trying to pull itself out of various traps that a committee says came from incompetence, waste and foolish administrative practices.
The schools here initiated mandatory busing in 1968 to achieve racial integration, a program that won national acclaim from liberals. But the program also set in motion an exodus of many young families, although some demographers say this trend has reversed lately.
The city government, which has swung from the control of conservatives into the hands of liberals and radicals in five years, appears to have become accustomed to facing up to problems instead of attempting to debate them away. The meetings of the Mayor and eight council members still last until 1 or 2 A.M., however.
Property taxes have begun to frighten people who were accustomed to voting every liberal spending program put before them. One owner of a home in the hills against which Berkeley nestles said that his taxes were less than $400 when he bought the house in 1963, but probably will be more than $1,600 next year. The house cost him $27,000. The assessor says its present value is $53,000.
Homeowners in Berkeley pay the highest real-estate taxes in California. Some of this is because of county government costs, over which voters here have slight control, but most of the bulge comes from unusual programs.
For example, this city has its own health department while other California cities of this size (118,000) depend on county health services. Also, the city voted about 10 years ago to have the Bay Area Rapid Transit District tracks tunneled through town in order to avoid a wall of elevated tracks that would divide "up-the-hill" from the less expensive housing on the level where the slope falls off toward San Francisco Bay.
The city property tax brought in about $9-million last year and almost a half million went into programs such as the Berkeley Free Clinic, black repertory group, and the group home for dependent and delinquent girls.
These expenditures are in tune with the heritage of a city, where the three bronze plaques in City Hall commemorate a justice of the peace and a fire chief, both of whom died in the late nineteen-twenties, and a nurse who died treating those ill with influenza in the 1918 epidemic. The municipal tradition here is of personal service from government.
Left Radical Fold
Warren Widener is the 37-year-old Mayor of Berkeley, elected in 1971 as a member of the slate backed by the April Coalition, a grouping of radicals and liberals whose most common concern was to end the Vietnam war.
He quickly differentiated himself from the radicals, and with his re-election last April, Mayor Widener has completed his separation from the radical minority on the council.
Of the four Coalition candidates elected in 1971, only Mayor Widener and Ilona Hancock, a stand-fast radical, are still in office.
"I don't talk of myself with labels like those," he said, and began to discuss the social programs that he supports for Berkeley. He is a graduate of the University of California and of Boalt Hall Law School on the campus here. He was born in Oroville, a small city in the Sierra foothills, and grew up as a black man who knew nothing of the problems of being black in the cities.
"I act the way I think the Mayor of Berkeley ought to act," he said.
There are eight council members. Mr. Widener has consistently allied himself with the five of those who think themselves to be liberal. He has been opposed by the three who consider themselves radical.
Jon Taylor is the City Manager, a professional who once worked in Fresno, and was six years city manager in Kansas City, Mo., before coming here 18 months ago.
He accepted the job, Mr. Taylor said, after watching what happened in a recall election in 1973. He said, "Friends advised me that if the voters recalled D'Army Bailey, the job would be worth having, but it wouldn't be if they didn't."
Mr. Bailey, a black lawyer and a radical, was also elected with the April Coalition slate in 1971, but alienated so many voters that he was swept out of office Aug. 18, 1973, and replaced by William Byron Rumford Jr., also a black man whose father had been a state senator and the author of a state housing equality act.
"It was some difference coming from Kansas City, where the council was conservative, and of the 13 members, 10 were white males," Mr. Taylor said. "Here there are nine on the council, counting the mayor, and one of them is a white male."
Racial Trend Shifting
Busing to achieve racial balance in schools here started voluntarily in 1966 and enjoyed wide acceptance in the city and considerable national praise. In 1968, when it became mandatory, the number of white students enrolled declined by 2 per cent after having shown steady gains.
Various indexes indicated a flow out of town for several years of young white families, and the school racial mix became increasingly black, but this trend seems to be reversed, said Arthur D. Dambacher, director of research for the Berkeley school district.
In 1970, black students were the largest racial group, but this has now changed with 44.9 per cent of the students white and 43.7 per cent black. The League of Women Voters did a recent study, projecting that by 1981, whites will make up 51 per cent; blacks, 38.6 per cent; Asians, 6.7 per cent, and Chicanos 3 per cent of the Berkeley public schools.
The school district is in money trouble, but this has nothing to do with its integration policies. The board has been told that it must find $2.5-million somewhere, and has proposed cutting salaries for everyone by 15 per cent. Last month a group called the Citizens' Fiscal Analysis Committee reported on a study of district bookkeeping and charged that the deficit is likely to be nearer $5.6-million for next year and attributed the problems to inefficiency, incompetence and gross over-staffing.
The board wants to solve the money crisis without any staff dismissals. Older teachers, whose seniority would protect them, oppose salary cuts, but younger ones support them as an alternative to looking for jobs in a shrunken market.
Photo: A Hare Krishna tent near the entrance to the campus of the University of California in Berkeley.
Reference: The New York Times, Berkeley, USA, 1975-08-06
This article, "New Religious Movements Considered Likely to Last," was published in The New York Times, June 22, 1977, in New York, New York, U.S.A.
By KENNETH A. BRIGGS
Special to The New York Times
BERKELEY, Calif. - There are signs here and elsewhere across the country that the youth-oriented religious sects that sprang into existence a few years ago are gaining a foothold for an enduring future.
The emergence of a wide assortment of spiritual movements, from Eastern religions to "Jesus" people, has been the principal feature of a resurgence of interest in religion among America's young people. Many movements, demanding intensive commitment, have evoked strong criticism from parents and public officials who believe the freedom of group members may have been violated.
After nearly a decade of this ferment, the underlying question is whether these new groups will last. The answer appears to be that most of them though faced with high attrition rates and continuing obstacles to survival, have retained a small but sufficient core of devoted followers and are acquiring the resources needed to continue their work.
Among the most significant indications of this preparation for the long haul is the increasing willingness of sect members to seek legitimacy for their religious commitment through the courts.
At least six lawsuits have been instigated against "deprogrammers" who removed followers from their sects and tried to dissuade them from returning. The plaintiffs include members of Hare Krishna, the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon and The Way.
The largest suit, a $9 million claim, has been filed by 20-year-old Wendy Hollander, a member of the Moon church, against seven persons. She charges that she was taken from the church in Barrytown, N.Y., by her parents and subjected to 86 days of programming against her will.
"Members of these groups are asking the system to support them." said Jeremiah Gutman, Miss Hollander's lawyer and head of the privacy committee of the American Civil Liberties Union. "They have gone from defensive thinking toward taking the offense."
'Feature of Profound Change'
The new religious groups are raising fundamental cultural and legal questions that are attracting growing attention from scholars.
"The new religious movement, in its broadest sense, can no longer he taken as a transitory cultural aberration." Prof. Jacob Needleman of San Francisco State University said last week, "but rather as a central feature of the profound change through which the American civilization is now passing."
Dr. Needleman spoke at a national conference on the new movements, held at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
His view was shared by most of the 35 sociologists, theologians and journalists at the conference, One of the purposes of the four-day gathering was to muster support for a proposed center for the study of new religions at the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of nine theological schools.
Goals of Research
The center would be the first of its kind in the United States, and could help provide information on the origins, growth and character of dozens of religious groups.
One of the principal aims of its research would be to sort out fact from popular fiction about such groups and to measure their impact on other institutions. Until now,, scholars say, little has been learned about most of the sects, partly because they have only recently been seen as important cultural factors.
Academicians disagree as to how great that impact has been. But most who have studied the question concur that the groups signify deep longings for meaning and a search for a more satisfactory sense of self. They also appear to represent serious challenges to Western thought that have caused many people to turn away from material gain, competition and the success ethic.
Peace and Power
Prof. Frederick Bird of Concordia University in Montreal, who has studied followers of new groups for several years, told the conference that their "appeal relates to the fact that participants find that ritual practice provides the self with a validating experience and self protecting armor against the exigencies of internal and external threats."
Theodore Roszak, the historian and author, said he believed that the new movements reflected a deep desire for transcendence and posed critical opposition to modern secular humanism. The lesson taught by this "religious renaissance," Professor Roszak said, is that "we can use its conception of human potentiality to challenge the adequacy of our science, our technics, our politics."
Those groups to whom these functions are ascribed represent a highly diverse variety of cults, meditation centers, rural communes, loosely organized associations and highly structured churches. However, if religion is defined as any cluster of values around which people shape their lives, a growing number of Americans appear to he taking part in one movement or another.
Findings of Poll
According to a Gallup survey last fall, 12 percent of those polled indicated that they had participated in one of several groups. The largest number, 4 percent or a projected 6 million Americans, had been involved with transcendental meditation. Next was yoga with 3 percent, or a projected 5 million, followed by charismatic renewal, 2 percent or 3 million; mysticism with the same number; Oriental religions, 1 percent or 2 million projected.
The heaviest concentration of participants was in the 18-to-24 age group.
Outsiders have shown by far the greatest concern about the high-intensity groups such as the Unification Church and Hare Krishna.
Preliminary studies of both groups, including the most extensive survey, by Prof. Stillman Judah of the Graduate Theological Union, show a small core membership (about 3,000 in the case of the Unification Church) and a small though steady growth rate.
The dropout rate is high among these groups. Professor Judah and Professor Bird have both surveyed youth populations and discovered that of all those who had had some contact with a new religious movement only 25 percent were still involved. In Professor Judah's sample, 55 percent of those in the Bay area had been involved less than a year.
But through persistent evangelistic efforts, these groups are winning new converts and attaining fiscal stability. For example, according to Professor Judah, the Unification Church expects to discontinue street sales of candy and other items in three years, hoping to have become totally reliant upon businesses by then. And Hare Krishna is said to be planning a new incense factory in Mexico to supplement its businesses in this country.
If historical patterns prevail, even the most controversial movements may find greater acceptance in America's religious pluralism. Much the same process of harsh criticism and later toleration has followed such groups as the Mormons, Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses.
But in the interim, said Harvey Cox, a Harvard theologian, many of these groups will bear the brunt of certain "myths" believed by the religious and cultural majority. Professor Cox identifies four such myths throughout history toward new groups: that they are subversive, that they encourage sexual perversion, that they refuse to tell the truth about themselves and that they employ means of duping followers.
The vigor and general acceptability of the new movements vary greatly. But whatever the response, scholars generally agree that the old and the new religions in this country have begun to influence each other and will continue to do so. To a degree out of proportion to their relatively small numbers, the groups are causing organized religion to do considerable thinking about their mission and purpose.
Professor Roszak said that the outcome of the struggle by new religions would be of immense consequence.
Photo: Hare Krishna followers parade on the street - the dropout rate is high but there is a slow though steady growth rate among the small membership.
Reference: The New York Times, Berkeley, USA, 1977-06-22
This article, "A Reuther Wedding, Krishna Style, in a Palace by Fisher," was published in The New York Times, August 9, 1977, in New York, New York, U.S.A.
By ANGELA TAYLOR
Special to The New York Times
DETROIT - Like Kubla Khan in Xanadu, Lawrence P. Fisher had a pleasure palace built in 1929. However, the automobile magnate's place with its gardens and fountains, its huge pseudo-Moorish rooms with painted ceilings and pillars inlaid with gold (not to mention a swimming pool, bowling alley, miniature golf course and boat dock for his 100-foot yacht) was set in East Detroit, an area that began to deteriorate after the Depression. His dream of an earthly paradise disappeared with the real estate slump.
Mr. Fisher, who was the first president of Cadillac Motors, and a member of the Body by Fisher family, was a bachelor when he arranged for the building (he married later) and there are all sorts of legends of his playboy days: Gatsby-like parties complete with movie stars and a closet full of negligees from which his favorities could choose.
The former Fisher mansion was full of music and flowers and dancing last weekend. Not jazz-age Charlestons, but the wailing music of the sitar and flutes and the repeated chanting of "Hare Krishna." The estate now belongs to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the Detroit temple was celebrating one of its happiest events, a wedding.
Fords Stay Away
Since Detroit is synonymous with cars, even a Hare Krishna wedding doesn't get too far from the automotive industry. The bride was Lekhasravanti, who was born Elisabeth Luise Reuther, daughter of Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers, who was killed in a plane crash in 1970. The bridegroom was Bhusaya (formerly Bruce Dickmeyer of Mankato, Minn.) and the best man was also a devote, Ambarish (Alfred Ford, great grandson of the founder of the Ford Motor Company and nephew of Henry Ford 2d).
There were no Fords visible among the guests, who left their shoes at the door and then padded barefoot up the tile staircase to be garlanded with flowers, but the bride's uncles, Ted and Victor Reuther, their wives and sons came. So did the Dickmeyers, parents and grandparents of the bridegroom, and his seven sisters and brothers, virtually all armed with cameras, who said they were enchanted with the bride.
Victor Reuther looked around at the past splendors of the Fishers and remarked: "When I think that this building was built with the sweat of the auto workers - what if the walls have ears, what would they think about a Reuther being married in these surroundings?"
Lisa Reuther and Alfred Ford met in the Krishna movement when they joined it four years ago. When the temple had the opportunity to buy the estate almost two years ago, Miss Reuther gave her inheritance and Mr. Ford lent the rest. It was his idea that this should be a splendid wedding with thousands of flowers flown in from as far as Hawaii for the garlands and decorations.
The temple bustled with activity from dawn on Saturday. Male devotees in khurtas and dhotis (loose shirts and sarong-like garments) built the canopy for the ceremony, young women in saris covered the marriage platform with silk and cushions and arranged the gifts of fruits and flowers to Krishna, laid the ceremonial fire and arranged the herbs and spices and ghee (clarified butter) that the priest would pour on the fire.
In the basement kitchen, more devotes prepared the lavish vegetarian feast, Krishna followers eat no animal food except milk products and are forbidden alcohol and even coffee, tea or Coco-Cola, to be arrayed on rented silver for the 200 guests.
Sari-clad female devotees padded around on bare feet, arranging flowers for centerpieces and making garlands to decorate the mansion's former ballroom and the guests. A Hare Krishna orchestra arrived from California.
The bride and bridegroom were the only temple members who did not work that day. Lekhasravanti, who is 30, wore A diamond nose ring, a gift from Goverdan, the temple president.
"A married woman should wear a nose ring," she explained. "Also have red painted on the part in her hair and dotted on her forehead. It means good luck for her husband."
Her hands and feet were painted in intricate red patterns that took an Indian member of the temple four hours to do. The bridegroom changed his saffron bachelor's dhoti for a cream silk one, but had no ornamentation except the telok, the white mark made of Ganges clay painted on his nose. His hair was cropped except for the sikha, the long back lock - "so Krishna can grab you and take you to heaven."
A Goal Like Her Father's
Both had entered the temple four years ago. "I wanted to help people," Lekhasravanti said, her blue eyes serious. The Reuther aunts and uncles had not objected. "I'm a mature woman, what we're doing in a spiritual way is what my father did. He believed in the dignity of man."
The young couple have been living in the temple, where the living quarters for the sexes are strictly segregated. They have bought a small house nearby, where they will live together. They both work in book distribution for the Krishna movement.
When it was time for the bride to dress in the bedroom of the late Mrs. Fisher, who seems to have preferred French boiseries to Moorish tiles, four Indian ladies, their voices as soft and gentle as doves, arrived to array the bride. First, they combed her long brown hair into a series of puffs at the back and pinned roses around the puffs. Carefully, they painted the telok and dotted arches of red and white over her brows.
The gorgeous, gold-encrusted crimson sari was pleated and draped over the long petticoat and short choli shirt. As an unmarried woman, the bride would not drape the scarf over her head unto after the ceremony. Then the bride's head, neck and arms are draped with the special jewels that belong to the temple.
In the ballroom, the bare-footed guests sat in silence. The bridegroom and best man took the lotus position on the cushion. Music wailed. The bride appeared alone and sat on her cushion.
The priest intoned, made various sacrifices of herbs to Krishna. The gueses chanted. The couple exchanged garlands and gold rings. Their hands were wrapped together with flower garlands by the best man, who tied his dhoti to her sari as a symbol of lasting marriage.
Victor Reuther kissed his niece and, giving his new nephew a playful pinch in the arm, said, "I like this man."
It's possible that the ghost of Lawrence Fisher would have liked the lavishness of this party. And, apparently, he had his compassions. When, after Mrs. Fisher's death in 1968, Gilbert Groehn bought the house, he found two silver caskets holding dogs buried in the garden.
Mr. Groehn, a manufacturer of burglar alarms, owned the house for two years and used it mainly to test his security devices. He called the house the Casa Alarmica.
Photo: At Hare Krishna Temple in Detroit, Lekhasravanti (Lisa Reuther, daughter of Walter Reuther) marries Bhusaya (Bruce Dickmeyer). Best man, right, is Ambarish Alfred Ford of the automotive family). Bride's uncle, Ted Reuther, is at far left.
Reference: The New York Times, Detroit, USA, 1977-08-09
This article, "Obituary BHAKTIVEDANTA PRABHUPAD," was published in The Hindu, November 16, 1977, in Chennai, India.
MATHURA, Nov, 15.
Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupad, the founder of the Hare Krishna International Movement, died after protracted illness, at the Krishna-Balram temple in Brindavan near here last evening. He was 81.
The Swami, who established about 50 temples in lndia and abroad, had come to Brindavan from London a few months back.- Samachar.
Reference: The Hindu, Vrindavan, India, 1977-11-16
This article, "New Temple Inaugurated in Hyderabad," was published in The Hindu, August 19, 1976, in Chennai, India.
HYDERABAD, Aug. 18.
The Rs. 16-lakh Radha Madan-mohan temple on the busy Nampalli Station road was inaugurated this morning.
The Chief Minister, Mr. J. Vengal Rao, who was the chief guest, said the phenomenon of foreign nationals taking to the Krishna Consciousness Movement indicated a "reversal in history". Despite advances in several fields and reaching celestial planets, people in the developed West had to turn to India for spiritual succour. There was however a tendency in this country to forget the rich Vedic culture of the past, he added.
The Founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, emphasised the need for people to realise the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and try to understand its essence.
The Minister for Endowments, Mr. Sagi Suryanarayana Itaju, said "we must all be grateful to Swami Prabhupada for making us realise the richness of our culture." Mr. J. B. Muthyal Rao, former Indian envoy to Somalia, spoke. Earlier, Swami Mahamsa welcomed the gathering.
The temple called the Radha Madanmohan International Centre has been built by the ISKCON. It has been designed by the Director of Town Planning, Mr. G. Venkataramana Reddy and the plot of land was donated by Mr. G. Puna Reddy. The Deities in the temple are Radha and Krishna, Jagannath Swami, Subhadra and Balaram.
When the Chief Minister was leaving after the inaugural function, a man aged about 30 threw himself before his car. The ear had just started moving and the driver brought it to a quick halt.
The man was taken into custody by the City Police. It was stated that he was "mentally unsound." - FOC.
Reference: The Hindu, Hyderabad, India, 1976-08-19
This article, "Probe into Work of Krishna Chaitanya Society in Bengal," was published in The Hindu, August 2, 1976, in Chennai, India.
NEW DELHI, Aug. 13.
Mr. Om Mehta, Minister of State for Home, informed the Rajya Sabha yesterday that Government would order an enquiry into the activities of the Krishna Chaitanya Society in Nadia district of West Bengal to find out whether there was something "fishy about it."
"We will certainly look into its activities to find out whether it is religious or pseudo-religious", he added.
Mr. Mehta made the statement in response to demands made by Mr. Sanet Kumar Raha and Mr. Kalyan Roy (both CPI), who alleged that the Society was receiving financial assistance from the United States and Federal Republic of Germany, and was indulging in anti-Indian activities.
Earlier Mr. F. H. Mohsin, Deputy Home Minister, told Mr. Raha that the Society, which was a registered institution, was reported to be engaged in the propagation of Vedic Dharma and Vedic culture including the study of religion, science, philosophy, art, music and medicine. It also supplied free food to about 3,000 needy people twice a week.
"The Society" was reported to be maintained by its devotees, a number of whom were foreigners including Americans, Germans, Italians, through subscriptions and donations raised by them.
He said that according to available information, no financial assistance had been extended to it by the Central Government.
Mr. Mohsin also told the House that the Society was receiving considerable funds from the U.S. for for the construction of temples. In 1974, it received over Rs. 23,000, in 1975 over Rs. 8 lakhs and till March this year over Rs. 14.67 lakhs.
Answering supplementaries, he pointed out that since the Society was a religious instiution, there was no ban on its receiving foreign contributions. The Society, he said also acquired in Mayapur a large area for constructing temples.
Mrs. Purabi Mukheree wanted the Government to screen foreign contributions received by this and other religious institutions in the country and, if necessary, enact legislation to stop it.
Mr. Mohsin said under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the inflow of foreign money to politicians, political parties and newspapers had been banned. In regard to charitable and religious institutions, there was no restriction on receiving foreign assistance, provided they maintained proper accounts and utilised the funds only for charitable or religious purposes.
Mr. Moshin also said that according to information available with the Government till July 1975, 92 foreigners were working in the Society. Of them 22 were from Commonwealth countries, 58 Americans, four French, five Dutch, two Germans and one Italian. - Samachar.
Reference: The Hindu, New Delhi, India, 1976-08-02
This article, "Plans for Rs. 200-cr. Vedic City in West Bengal," was published in The Hindu, August 2, 1976, in Chennai, India.
Madras, Aug. 1.
Commencement of work on the construction of a Rs. 200-crore Vedic city in West Bengal will herald the commencement of the second decennium of the Hare Krishna Cult. This year (1976) marks the tenth anniversary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded by Swami Prabhupada on July 6, 1966. From a small rented store in New York, the movement has to-day spread to over 100 centres all over the world.
In 1975, Swami Prabhupada opened a Krishna-Balarama temple at Brindavan (India). A similar structure in Hyderabad will be inaugurated by the Swami on Grokulashtami (August 18). in Bombay, a Rs. 1-crore temple project is under progress. Land for building a Krishna shrine in Madras has already been sought from the Government.
The proposed Vedic city will include a 35-storey temple-cum-planetarium, a gurukula, a Vedic university as well as a business district and areas for developing agriculture and cottage industries. It will be completed by 1986, coinciding with the 500th birth anniversary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who propagated the chanting of the "Maha-Mantra".
The first two of Swami Prabhupada's disciples, Swami Achyutananda and Swami Yasodananda are now in India spreading the activities of the Hare Krishna movement by holding festivals at important centres, meeting other spiritual leaders and giving discourses. They will be in Madras till August 4 singing kirtans at "Dharmaprakash" in the evenings.
They told a press conference yesterday that Krishna Consciousness had been recognised as an authentic religion and the members could carry on their missionary activity anywhere, according to a Philadelphia decree. In the next ten years, it was proposed to open three Vedic universities - one in the United States (probably in New York), the second at Kurukshetra, and the third at the proposed Vedic city in West Bengal. These centres would provide facilities for the study of literature of the four Vaishnava traditions - of Ramanuja, Madhwa, Nimbarka and Vishnuswami and their harmonisation by Chaitanya.
Reference: The Hindu, Madras, India, 1976-08-02