Here in the American Southwest, Asian Indian families are showing
that if you have the will to serve Krsna, He'll help you find the way.
PERHAPS MORE than any other temple in North America, the Hare Krsna temple in Houston, Texas, has inspired locally resident Asian Indians to seriously take up the practices of Krsna consciousness as given by Srila Prabhupada. Indians have a natural affinity for Krsna consciousness because it represents their original culture. Still, Western devotees have traditionally been the mainstay of ISKCON temples in America. One reason: Although devoted to Lord Krsna and supportive of ISKCON temples, many Indians find that family duties seem to keep them from fully taking part.
But not so in Houston. When the temple moved to its present location in 1985, Tamal Krsna Goswami, ISKCON's governing body commissioner for Texas, recognized the local Indian enthusiasm for serving Lord Krsna. And since then the devotees in Houston have done their utmost to help more and more Indian families offer direct service to Krsna at the temple.
The Houston temple is probably the only full-size ISKCON temple in North America (maybe even the world) where all the services are carried out by grhasthas, or married devotees. Nearly all these devotees are of Indian origin. None of them receives any financial compensation from the temple.
Building a Place of Pilgrimage
One attraction that has drawn people to ISKCON Houston is the ambitious plans for the temple itself. In 1986 the devotees installed Deities of Radha-Krsna in the temple, a former church that still looked like one. Seeing the Deities standing on an ornate Indian-style teakwood throne, the devotees were inspired to renovate the temple interior. Today the motifs of the marble floor, the multi-domed ceiling, and the carved pillars all give the feeling of traditional India.
The devotees didn't stop there. They embarked on a $2.5 million project to create Hare Krishna Dhama, a "Hare Krsna Holy Abode," where thousands of people can learn about Krsna. The devotees bought adjacent land and drew up plans for a hall, a park with ponds, trails, and gardens, and for the existing temple additions and a Vedic-style exterior.
The first phase of the project the building of a hall is complete. Gauranga Hall and Dr. Rakesh Dhingra Cultural Center opened last May. It is used for feasts, marriages, and other religious ceremonies. Besides the main hall, the building has classrooms, guestrooms, a stage, a kitchen, and a conference room. Gauranga Hall and Dr. Rakesh Dhingra Cultural Center is the largest hall in the Houston area serving the Indian community.
Expanding the Congregation
While some people decry the need for ornate temples, Srila Prabhupada taught the principle of using everything in the Lord's service. He also knew that if you want people to hear a spiritual message, you should provide them comfortable surroundings in which to hear it. So he encouraged temple construction, and the devotees of Houston are seeing the benefits of his vision. As soon as the devotees spread the word about their plans to develop Hare Krishna Dhama, they began to see more and more people, especially Indians, take interest in Krsna consciousness. As people offered support, they felt themselves drawn toward Lord Krsna. Consequently, since 1986 many Indians from the Houston area have become initiated disciples in the Hare Krsna movement and have increased their commitment to spreading Krsna consciousness.
In the past few years many Indian families have moved close to the temple to increase their service to Lord Krsna. They still have their jobs and professions, but living close to the temple lets them serve Krsna with both their money and their time. Syamasundara Dasa (Hasmukh Naik), the temple president, puts in a full day at the business he runs with his wife, Syamavallabhi Devi Dasi. But every evening he either does temple administration or visits people at home to talk to them about Krsna consciousness and Hare Krishna Dhama. His brother-in-law Caitanya Dasa serves the Deities during the day (he's the head pujari, or priest), and in the evening he works at his business. His wife, Draupadi Devi Dasi, assists him both at work and at the temple.
Guru Bhakti Devi Dasi, also of Indian origin, is a physician. Despite her busy schedule, she performs temple services and attends the temple program every morning. She is one of the largest contributors to the Hare Krishna Dhama project. And she gives her patients Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
These are just a few examples of the dedicated devotees of ISKCON Houston. Without neglecting their other responsibilities, they have arranged their lives so they can directly serve the Lord in the temple and help Srila Prabhupada in his mission of spreading Krsna consciousness.
Nagaraja Dasa is the managing editor of Back to Godhead. The brothers Vivek and Vijay Pai are graduate students at Rice University and active congregational members of the Houston temple.
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