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