TODAY -

50 ISKCON (1966 – 2016) celebrations
- Part 2 -

Radhamohan Das *

Krishna Janma celebrated at ISKCON Temple, Imphal on 28 August 2013
Krishna Janma celebrated at ISKCON Temple, Imphal on 28 August 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Achievements during 50 ISKCON as claimed by ISKCON: (in brief)

600 temples; 65 eco-farms; 110 vegetarian restaurants; BBT's (world's largest publisher of Vaishnava) distribution of 516 million books and magazines ; feeding 1.2 million school children every day in India by ISKCON's affiliated Annamrita Food Relief Program ; ISKCON's world HQ in Mayapura, West Bengal, India draws one million pilgrims each year; Vedic Planetarium under construction at Mayapura will have a capacity of 10,000 people in its worship hall.

Dr. A.L. Basham, author of the famed book, "The Glory That Was India," wrote, "The Hare Krishna Movement …. is historically very significant…… the Asian religion is being openly practiced by the people of Western origin in the streets of the Western cities".

Thomas Merton, renowned catholic theologian and monk wrote, "Swami Bhaktivedanta brings to the West a salutary reminder that our highly activistic and one-sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self-destruction because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness".

Professor Cynthia Humes, Religion teacher of Claremont Mekenna College in Claremont California said, "The Hare Krishna movement …… has transformed since it arrived in the United States. Due to space, only some of 50 ISKCON's celebrations elsewhere are briefly highlighted.

His Divine Grace A.C. [Abhay Charanaravinda] Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [1 September 1896 – 14 November 1977], a foremost Vedic scholar, translator and Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher is regarded as the world's most renowned contemporary authority on Bhakti-yoga (devotional service) to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. He was the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in 1966 which is commonly known as the "Hare Krishna Movement".

Srila Prabhupada's mission was to propagate the monotheistic Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a school on Vaishnavite Hinduism. He as a disciple was taught by his spiritual guru, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakura to a greater extent. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was born to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great Krishna conscious spiritual master in the line of succession from Lord Caitanya. In 1922, this intelligent young college student named Abhay Caran De was met by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and he was immediately advised to preach the message of Krishna consciousness to the Western world in the English language. He was also advised to print books if he has got money.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta commented that Bhaktivedanta Swami, by his full engagement in producing the Bhagavatam, felt bliss and assurance that Krishna was pleased. It was sorely needed medicine for the ills of Kali-yuga, and it was not possible for only one man to administer it. Yet he was alone and he felt exclusive pleasure and satisfaction in serving his guru and Lord Krishna. If a person got a copy of the Bhagavatam and read even one page, he might decide to take part in Lord Caitanya's movement.

Srila Prabhupada had developed a routine of translating Srimad-Bhagavatam anywhere he went for at least a few hours a day, as per the request of his disciples that they wanted him to have time for translating the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Actually, Srila Prabhupada told them it was his desire.

Therefore, Srila Prabhupada's plan has been to transplant the seedling of India's spirituality in the West and then to return the healthy plant to its native soil, where the teachings of Lord Krishna had become confused by persons misrepresenting Vedic culture. In reawakening India's own culture, Srila Prabhupada wanted specially that there must be wonderful temples of Krishna consciousness, and temples are for everyone's benefit.

Srila Prabhupada who took renunciation (Sannyasa) from HH Bhakti Prajna Keshava Maharaj at the Keshava Gaudiya Math, Mathura in 1959 after taking initiation as a disciple from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in 1933 started writing the commentaries on Vaishnava scriptures while he was residing in Sri Sri Radha Damodara temple, Vrindavana (U.P.) India.

He left his home at the age of 50 years and stayed at Vrindavana upto an age of 69 years till he left for America. He became an influential commentator or communicator of Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology to India and then to the West through his twelve years teachings. During this short period, he circled the globe fourteen times inspite of his advanced age to spread Vedic knowledge on his series of lectures while travelling in six continents.

Srila Parbhupada became so influential as a great Vedic Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher that thousands of young Americans took initiatives from him and he had thousands and thousands of disciples. None the less, he had also critics and he was attacked from the anti-cult groups. However, many renowned religious scholars such as J. Stillson Judah(Professor Emeritus, History of Religions, Barkeley California), Harvey Cox (Professor of Divinity, Harvard University), Dr. Larry Shinn(Danforth Professor of Religion, Oberlin, Ohio), convincingly supported him.

In particular, Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins (Chairman, Dept. of Religious Studies, Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, Pennsylvania) poured immense praise on Srila Prabhupada and his translations and thereby defended the group against distorted media images and misinterpretations. Other Gaudiya Vaishnava movements had also given credit to Srila Prabhupada for his movement on Krishna consciousness, known as Hare Krishna Movement.

Srila Prabhupada gave fearless direction to his devotees how to combat the bigotry, compared it to the attacks Sri Krishna Himself had to face the asuras, and was pleased to hear that New York State Court's decision completely vindicating the Krishna consciousness movement from charges of "brainwashing". Lord Caitanya had predicted much earlier that "In every town and village the chanting of my name (Lord Krishna) will be heard". Srila Prabhupada made it a reality during twelve years only.

"The fundamental religious system in the age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krishna. Unless empowered by Lord Sri Krishna, one cannot propagate the Sankirtana movement": – Caitanya – Caritamrita

Srila Prabhupada had followed the instruction given by his spiritual guru, that is the reason why he at an advanced age of 69 boarded a steamship, Calcutta to New York City in 1965, with only Rs. 40/- in his pocket and a small trunk containing his Bhagavatam commentaries in English. All the achievements he had made during twelve years and till his disappearance in 1977 are all reflected in his pastimes that would be understood in details if one reads "Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta" again and again.

Prabhupada's literal meaning in Sanskrit is "he who has taken the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord" where "Prabhu" denotes "Lord" and "Pada" means "taking shelter" , "Prabhupada" is used as a respectable form of address by his disciples from late 1967 and 1968 onwards. Previous to this, "Swamiji" was called.

To be continued ....


* Radhamohan Das wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 14, 2016.


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