A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Demonstrations Held Worldwide for Soviet Devotees of Krsna
Los Angeles On September 15, ISKCON members in more than forty cities worldwide staged demonstrations to demand the release of Hare Krsna devotees incarcerated in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals in the Soviet Union. In Moscow fifty Soviet devotees held a press conference attended by Western reporters.
The demonstrations received widespread media coverage, including reports by international wire services, BBC radio, Voice of America, National Public Radio (USA), Radio Liberty, and many local television stations and newspapers around the world.
Back to Godhead magazine devoted its November issue to "Krsna Consciousness in the USSR." The special issue was rushed to press, and devotees were able to distribute it at many of the demonstrations, including the New York demonstration, held in front of the United Nations headquarters. During the four-hour demonstration there, devotees chanted continuously and collected hundreds of signatures on petitions requesting freedom for the persecuted Soviet devotees.
Devotees demonstrated outside the Soviet embassies in Washington, D.C.; Gothenburg, Sweden; Ottawa, Ontario; and other cities; and in Kingston, Jamaica, devotees met for more than an hour with the Soviet consul general.
The demonstrations were organized by the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, which is working to legalize Krsna consciousness in the USSR. Although the Soviet government has released three devotees because of efforts by the committee, twenty-three devotees remain incarcerated under intolerable conditions. The committee promises that more demonstrations and other types of pressure will continue until all the Soviet devotees are given freedom to practice Krsna consciousness.
Krsna Consciousness For Calcutta Youth
Calcutta-Devotees at ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha-Govinda temple here have inaugurated-under the direction of Bhakti Raghava Swami-the Calcutta branch of the Bhaktivedanta Youth Services (BYS), a youth club meant to encourage college and high school students in the practice of Krsna consciousness. BYS members agree to chant at least two rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on their beads daily and read from Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is at least twenty minutes a day. Members also attend training seminars every Sunday at the temple.
The motto of BYS is "Compassion, Cleanliness, Discipline, and Truthfulness," the four pillars of religion, as mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Devotees will soon be opening BYS branches in Orissa and Bihar. Sarva-jnana dasa, originally from Italy, is the director of the Calcutta BYS, which now has thirty-five members.
Madison, Wisconsin, home of the largest campus of the University of Wisconsin, with an enrollment of 45,000 students, is now also the home of a center for Krsna consciousness. Mitrasena dasa and his wife, Maharha-devi dasi, recently opened a center there and hold a program every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 P.M. that includes chanting, feasting, and a discourse on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. The center is located at 1149 E. Dayton Street. Phone: (608) 255-8883.
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ISKCON Kerala has organized a unique program for introducing schoolchildren to Krsna consciousness-an interschool quiz competition on Puranic history, consisting of questions from the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Ramayana, and other Vedic literatures. Held around the time of Janmastami, the competition, which takes place between teams of two students, has become an annual event in several cities in Kerala. Teams that win written competitions qualify for the oral finals. Winners are awarded Srila Prabhupada's books as well as cash prizes, and the schools they represent receive trophies.
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The Honorable W. Wilson Goode, mayor of Philadelphia, was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies of the new Hare Krsna Food For Life shelter in downtown Philadelphia. The shelter will house one hundred homeless women and children, who will receive three meals a day of nourishing vegetarian prasadam (food offered to Krsna). The devotees have already been successfully running a men's shelter, and government agencies and welfare organizations have come forward with financial assistance for the new shelter.