The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Devotees Host Religious Freedom Conference
San Diego Devotees and scholars convened here recently for a two day conference on religious freedom, called "Cultures in Conflict: the Hare Krsna Movement in America."
Amarendra dasa, of the ISKCON Office of Legal Affairs, and Mukunda Goswami, ISKCON's minister of public affairs, organized the conference to publicize the George v. ISKCON case. Larry Shinn, author of The Dark Lord and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bucknell University, was the keynote speaker.
The first topic of the conference was "Views from Within." Speakers included Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Ph.D.), ISKCON's Governing Body Commission chairman for 1988; Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami (Ph.D.), director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute; and Hridayananda dasa Goswami.
Other topics were ISKCON's academic contribution and freedom of religion. Professors, attorneys, and psychologists talked about America's tradition of religious tolerance and the anticult movement's interest in the George v. ISKCON case.
A press conference on the first day resulted in newspaper, TV, and radio coverage. An article in the San Diego Tribune quoted Dr. Shinn: "Courts are allowing psychiatrists to tell us what religion is." The San Diego Union carried his statement that "Religious freedom is being sacrificed to the psychology of fear."
Indian Government Donates Land to ISKCON
Bangalore, Karnataka Devotees here recently consecrated newly acquired land given by the Karnataka government. Governor Sri P. Venkatasubaiah addressed the assembled guests at the ceremony.
The Karnataka government allotted the six-and-a-half-acre parcel to ISKCON to establish the Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Cultural Center and Educational Complex. Madhu Pandita dasa, temple president in Bangalore, said, "After ISKCON's ten years in the city, the new land provides us a great opportunity to expand our activities here."
The picturesque land is on a hill within the city. The planned cultural/educational center will include a temple, school, guesthouse, and marriage hall, and will preserve the natural woodlands, parks, and waterfalls.
Their Lordships Sri Sri Krsna Balarama, the presiding Deities of the Bangalore temple, rode in a Ratha-yatra procession to the land, where a week-long festival took place.
BI Lectures on Indian Campuses
Bombay Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI) members Rasaraja dasa and Rajahamsa dasa have been to the top universities throughout India, giving a series of lectures on Krsna consciousness. The program began in October 1987, when the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, invited devotees to hold their Bhagavata Science Series.
The series includes four lectures: "Causality and Change," an analysis of modern science; "Can Machines Think?" a critique of artificial intelligence; "Matter and Antimatter," an explanation of consciousness; and "Meditation for the Modern Age," an introduction to Bhagavad-gita and the chanting of Hare Krsna.
During the four-day seminar, devotees sold hundreds of books published by BI and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Seeing the overwhelmingly positive response, the institute invited the devotees back. The second lecture series included "Concepts of Time and Space," covering Vedic physics; "Introduction to Vedic Cosmology," explaining Vedic astronomy; and "God and His Energies," more studies from Bhagavad-gita.
Rasaraja, a Ph.D. chemist, and Rajahamsa decided to take the series to other Indian universities. Through the year, they lectured in India's prominent scientific institutes, including IIT, Kanpur; IIT, New Delhi; the National Physical Laboratory (where 150 scientists attended a one-day seminar); Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Birla Institute of Science and Technology, Pilani; the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; and other colleges in Bombay.
At each engagement devotees sold hundreds of books, circulated questionnaires to participants, and received many positive responses.
They accumulated five thousand names for the BI mailing list. Some seminar participants report that they now chant regularly, and three colleges have started Bhagavad-gita clubs.
In Madras, Rasaraja and Rajahamsa addressed another concern: "Value Education," or ethics. Worried about the moral decline of Indian schoolchildren, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad invited Rasaraja and Rajahamsa to address a gathering of 120 high school principals and moral science teachers. The VHP wanted a way to present Vedic philosophy in the context of Western empirical science, since Indian law prohibits religion in public schools.
The main thrust of the one-day workshop was to enable teachers to see how religious knowledge can be scientifically taught. The teachers responded positively and asked the devotees to design a curriculum for moral education. The Bhaktivedanta Institute of Bombay is working on a book called Morals in the Age of Science,which will be part of the curriculum.
The ISKCON Office for Soviet and East European Affairs announced that fifty-four devotees from the Soviet Union have received permission to travel to India to attend this year's Vrndavana-Mayapur festival. The Soviet devotees will travel from Moscow to Calcutta dressed in dhotis and saris. Kirtiraja dasa of the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas said, "After experiencing such repression and persecution at the hands of the Soviet authorities, the devotees never dreamed it possible that they could go to India for the festival." Indian press, radio, and television will greet the devotees when they arrive in Calcutta.
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Devotees in Durban, South Africa, were honored by the South African Red Cross Society for their assistance during the devastating floods there last year. At a presentation ceremony, Indradyumna Swami accepted a certificate that expressed "the warmest thanks for the valuable services rendered to the cause of humanity." The devotees worked tirelessly every day for more than a month, distributing a total of thirty thousand meals to the areas most affected by the floods.
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Srila Prabhupada's Sankirtana Pada-yatra is attending the Kumbha-mela in Allahabad, India, during January and February. By the time the great religious festival is over, as many as twenty million people will have attended. ISKCON has setup a camp at the fair, and devotees from around the world are chanting, preaching, and distributing prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books.
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With a $2 million grant from the Dutch government and $400,000 from the Rotary International Club, the Bhaktivedanta Institute is directing a large-scale health care project in the tribal areas of the Vishakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Working with Hare Krishna Food For Life, the Institute hopes to eradicate goiter, anemia, and night blindness in these areas, where the incidence of these diseases is near fifty percent.
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In January, a hundred ISKCON devotees from India and elsewhere held a 500-kilometer pada-yatra (walking pilgrimage) in the northeastern states of India, including Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, and Tripura. The aim of the pada-yatra was to promote peace by encouraging people to take up sanatana-dharma, or service to the Supreme Lord, as the prime duty of life.
Plain living, high thinking. Get out of the city away from the noise, pollution, and the anxiety and madness of city life. Come back to a simpler, more natural way of life. Live close to the earth, close to God. The Hare Krsna movement has thirty-four farm communities throughout the world. These are sacred places where your spirit can unfold. And at the same time, they're realistic, practical places, where you can build a sane, stable life for yourself and, if you're married, for your family.
To find out more, get in touch with the ISKCON farm community nearest you.
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