RECENTLY, for the first time, I traveled to South Africa to visit some of our Hare Krsna temples.
It's a beautiful country, blessed by Krsna with fertile land, a pleasant climate, and an abundance of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
Yet it's a country stretched by political tension and hemorrhaging with violence. While I was there, with elections upcoming, many people seemed hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. No one's quite sure what "the new South Africa" will bring.
What it will bring, for certain, is beyond anyone's control but Krsna's. Like everywhere else in the universe, it's Krsna's country, and every living being there is Krsna's servant. But like everywhere else in the universe, it's filled with souls who've forgotten their relationship with Krsna. And therefore it has become a place of struggle.
A conciliatory "new South African" slogan, displayed with an image of doves, calls for "Peace in Our Land." That peace can best be had only be had by understanding that what we call "our land," whatever land it is, belongs ultimately to Krsna, God. Krsna is the supreme owner of everything, and therefore we should dedicate everything land and life for Krsna's pleasure. And because Krsna is the most intimate well-wishing friend of every living being, when we act in this spirit of Krsna consciousness Krsna helps us attain true peace peace within ourselves and peace with those around us.
The Hare Krsna movement in South Africa is showing how to do this. In Durban, on the east coast, devotees have built a magnificent temple for Krsna. There devotion and spiritual happiness prevail, and Indian, African, and European devotees work together for Krsna's pleasure.
Even South Africa's political leaders view the movement with respect. A recent political poster features Mr. de Klerk meeting an ISKCON sannyasi, and Mr. Mandela and the Inkhata Freedom Party's Mangosuthu Buthelezi have both made it a point to visit the Durban temple. And all three sent messages of good will for the recent Festival of the Chariots held on the Durban seashore. (The mayor was pleased to attend as guest of honor and sample a giant cake of Krsna prasadam.)
Distributing prasadam, food offered to Krsna, is a service devotees in South Africa perform vigorously. In Durban alone, the movement's Food for Life program gives out eighty thousand plates a month. Devotees cook vats of vegetable biryani and dal, drive it in their jeep to black townships, and dish it out at schools to long lines of kids. Devotees give out another twenty thousand plates a month in Johannesburg.
Along with prasadam, devotees also give the chanting of the maha-mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. A Zulu-speaking devotee teaches the words, and within minutes the whole school is chanting and dancing. When the kids go home they teach it to their parents. Drive anywhere in these townships and as soon as people see the Hare Krsna jeep they at once call out "Hare Krsna!"
There's more to tell of the network of Hare Krsna congregations, the Hare Krsna "tent campaign," the Bhaktivedanta College but that will have to wait for upcoming issues.
For now, enough to say that the doves of peace are nested at the lotus feet of Krsna.
– Jayadvaita Swami