ISKCON Mayapur

Devotees from around the world come to ISKCON's yearly gathering.

EVERY SPRING, the Hare Krsna movement holds its annual get-together in India. In Mayapur, West Bengal, nestled on the bank of the Ganges, two dozen world leaders of the Hare Krsna movement meet to plan out the movement's work for the coming year. Then hundreds of other devotees join them for a two-week spiritual festival. After the Mayapur celebrations, the devotees move on for ten days in Vrndavana, the pastime place of Lord Krsna. Then everyone scatters back out around the world, for another year.

What happened at the meetings? And what went on at the festivals? Here's a report.

The Meetings

By all reports, the meetings of the GBC, the movement's Governing Body Commission, were smooth and convivial. The resolutions mostly came out humdrum some committee work here, some funding there. Nothing revolutionary. Hardly anything shocking. Business as usual. (Most devotees saw this as a good sign.)

Still, a few highlights stand out.

Centennial Celebration Committee

Lokanath Swami

In 1996, one hundred years will have passed since the birth of the teacher who spread the Hare Krsna movement to the world His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

To see that this centennial gets celebrated in a big way, the GBC set up a Ministry, headed by veteran devotee Lokanatha Swami. He's already making plans, and if you'd like to help you can get in touch with him at his office in New Delhi: 62 Sant Nagar (2nd floor), New Delhi 110 065, India. Telephone and fax: +91 (11) 642-17-63.

Hinduism Defined

Is the Hare Krsna movement Hindu or isn't it? The GBC drafted an official statement to set things straight. (See page 64.)

New GBC Members

The Governing Body added two new members. Madhusevita Dasa, from Italy, will help oversee the work of the Hare Krsna movement in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Romapada Swami, from America, will work in New York and New Jersey.

The GBC also set up a new arrangement by which lesser known leaders can share in GBC duties and gradually join the GBC body. The first of those leaders, known as "candidates for GBC," will be Dhanvantari Swami, from Brazil. The GBC also plans to send several such candidates to strengthen the Hare Krsna movement in Africa.

New Places in Vrndavana

The GBC approved funds for the purchase of new properties in Vrndavana, India, the land of Lord Krsna's pastimes. We'll tell you more after the deals have gone through.

University in Mayapur

The GBC expressed its desire to set up a university in Mayapur. The body appointed senior member Hridayananda Dasa Goswami to get the project started.

Vedic Cultural Museum

ISKCON has a temple in Potomac, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. Situated on a beautiful estate, it's potentially wonderful but has never really gotten very far. Now a group of devotees has proposed to develop a Vedic Cultural Museum on the site, along with the existing temple. The GBC approved the idea and encouraged the devotees to raise the needed funds.

The Festival

Kirtan in ISKCON Mayapur

Encircling the Spiritual World

This year the Mayapur festival had a new feature: a weeklong tour, on foot, of the holy places encircling the Mayapur area. Five centuries ago, Lord Krsna appeared in Mayapur in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So Mayapur is considered as good as Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode.

In previous years, devotees had gone out to visit pilgrimage sites by bus. But bus trips can't match the spiritual taste of staying out on the road.

So the tour by foot will now be part of the festival every year.

ISKCON's Campus Expanding

Pilgrims to Mayapur this year saw lots of new projects in the works and nearly finished new residence buildings and guest houses, an electrical powerhouse, and a printing press for books and magazines in Bengali.

Work on the Puspa Samadhi, a memorial to Srila Prabhupada, is steadily moving ahead. But this imposing building, the largest and tallest for miles around, will still take at least two more years to complete.

Eight Gopis

Lord Krsna always stands with His eternal consort Srimati Radharani, the supreme goddess of fortune. And Radha and Krsna are always surrounded by Her spiritual expansions in the form of cowherd maidens, or gopis.

Some years ago, Calcutta businessman Sri Mahadeo Tulsian, initiated in ISKCON as Radhapada Dasa, had a dream. In his dream he saw Krsna and Radharani and the eight main gopis installed as Deities in ISKCON's Mayapur temple. So he offered to pay to have the Deities carved in Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, and brought to Mayapur.

Radha and Krsna came first and were duly set in the temple. Four gopis followed. But the other four gopis were slow in coming. Years have gone by and only four gopis.

This year the other four arrived.

So now the dream has been fulfilled. Radha and Krsna reveal themselves in Sridham Mayapur in all-attractive spiritual beauty, surrounded by Their eight loving gopi companions.

Sweetness in Vrndavana

The gathering in Vrndavana, ninety miles south of Delhi, was smaller and more intimate than in Mayapur. The high point of the program: the annual boat festival.

For the boat festival, the courtyard of ISKCON's temple is filled with water. The courtyard becomes a lake, and in the evening small Deities of Radha and Krsna glide about in the lake on a small boat pulled by devotees. Chanting of Hare Krsna, dramas of Krsna's pastimes, and sharing of sweets and fruits invoke a spiritual atmosphere, by which those who attend feel transported to Lord Krsna's spiritual abode.

Then all the devotees go back to their places around the world, to serve Lord Krsna for another year.

Jayadvaita Swami is the editor-in-chief of Back to Godhead.