A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Hare Krsna Movement Expands Spiritual Leadership
Mayapur, India – This rural village ninety miles north of Calcutta has always been of central importance to the Hare Krsna movement. The great saint and divine incarnation Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took His birth here 496 years ago, and it was here that He later began teaching the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra as the best way to attain love of God. Today, the Krsna Consciousness Society's Governing Body Commission (GBC), a group of twenty-two senior disciples His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada designated as the Society's "ultimate managing authority," meets here annually to chart the course of the Society for the coming year.
This year the GBC made two decisions that expand the Society's spiritual leadership. First, to three of Srila Prabhupada's closest disciples they gave their blessings to begin accepting disciples. (These three will thus join ten others who have been initiating disciples since Srila Prabhupada passed away in 1977.) Second, the GBC gave the go-ahead for some two dozen seasoned preachers to enter the renounced order, sannyasa. Asannyasi cuts off all worldly attachment to family, wealth, and home and dedicates his life to maintaining the strictest standards of Krsna consciousness and preaching Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
The first of the new spiritual masters is His Divine Grace Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami. Born into a family of Krsna's devotees in Manipur, India, some forty-five years ago, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami distinguished himself as an accomplished scholar. He received his B.S. in chemistry, with first-class honors, from Gauhati University and his Master of Technology degree, with first-class honors, from Calcutta University. Later he earned his Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from the University of California at Irvine. (It was while studying there in 1970 that he met Srila Prabhupada and became his disciple.) Today, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami makes good use of his academic achievements as director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the Hare Krsna movement's center for the advanced study of the nature and origin of life. In books, pamphlets, and scientific forums, the members of the BI challenge the predominant mechanistic world view of modern science and present the non-mechanistic science of Krsna consciousness. Fundamental Principles of Reincarnation and The Scientific Basis of Krsna Consciousness are two of the many works he has written under the banner of the BI. In addition to heading up the BI, he oversees the movement's activities in his native Manipur and nearby areas. He has just opened a gurukula school in Manipur—a school that will teach children reading, writing, arithmetic, and the other usual subjects, along with the science of Krsna consciousness.
The second new spiritual master is His Divine Grace Gopala Krsna Goswami. Born in Delhi in 1946, he earned his B.A. at Delhi University, and then went on to the Sorbonne for a postgraduate business degree. A master's from McGill, in Montreal, rounded out his academic laurels. He met Srila Prabhupada in Montreal in 1968 and soon became his disciple. Seeing and later pioneered the large-scale publishing, printing, and distribution of Krsna conscious books in Indian languages. Today, besides overseeing the affairs of the Hare Krsna movement in Canada, Seattle, and northern and western India, he runs the western Indian branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which publishes Krsna conscious books and magazines in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, and English.
His Divine Grace Pancadravida Swami is the third new spiritual master. In 1966 he graduated with honors from the University of Southern California, earning a degree in English literature, and after a period of spiritual searching began a career in Krsna consciousness that would span the globe. He met Srila Prabhupada in Bombay in 1971 and took spiritual initiation. Then for a year and a half Srila Pancadravida Swami helped the Society's fledgling project at Bombay's Juhu Beach. From there it was on to a preaching tour of southern India until 1974. Bangkok was his next assignment, then Hong Kong, and then Los Angeles in late 1975. From there he went to Argentina for a year and a half, spreading Krsna consciousness in a land torn by political instability and violence. Today Srila Pancadravida Swami oversees the affairs of the Hare Krsna movement in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador.