The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Festival at Miami's Asia Fest
Miami, Florida ISKCON devotees here recently participated in AsiaFest, a million-dollar exhibition to promote Asian-American tourism and trade. ISKCON's contribution to the event was organized by Yadurani-devi dasi, a long-time artist for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and founder of CIVA: The Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts.
When Yadurani dasi first heard about the exhibition, which was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, she saw it as an ideal opportunity to exhibit CIVA's collection of Krsna-related art. Although the participation fee for AsiaFest was $7,000, when Yadurani dasi told organizer Burton Wolfe about the art exhibit, he waived the entire fee.
All Yadurani needed was a tent and that led her to Madhuha dasa, leader of ISKCON's Traveling Festival of India, which is the mainstay of most of the Ratha-yatra festivals in North America. What began as a chance for a transcendental art exhibit gradually grew into a full-scale Hare Krsna festival, including the Miami Beach temple's Gitavali bhajana band; Bharata-natyam dancer Deva Deva dasa; cooking demonstrations; theater; puppet shows; Govinda's Gift Store; and the Festival of India's exhibits on reincarnation, vegetarianism, Deity worship, Srila Prabhupada, and more.
While Yadurani dasi painted at the art exhibit, where thirty-five original oil paintings were on display, many people came to get her autograph on posters of her paintings. Devotees distributed prasadam (food offered to Krsna) and Srila Prabhupada's books to thousands of people. Although the AsiaFest organizers were at first skeptical of ISKCON's participation, they were changed by the spiritual atmosphere and by witnessing festival-goers' enthusiasm for ISKCON's exhibits. At the end of the festival, the second-in-charge (who had been the most skeptical in the beginning) told Yadurani, "You were all fabulous. Thank you for your patience, your kindness, your music, your food, and everything. We couldn't have done it without you.
Michigan magazine, the Sunday supplement of the Detroit News, printed a cover story on the Detroit devotees called "Kindred Spirits." The cover photograph shows Apurva dasa chanting, with his nine-month-old son, Amala-purana dasa, clapping along. The nine-page article includes sixteen full-color photographs and stresses the devotees' life of sacrifice and austerity amid the opulence of the Detroit temple.
* * *
ISKCON devotees participated in the week-long Diwali festival in Trinidad. Because half of the population is of Asian-Indian descent the festival is attended by tens of thousands of people. ISKCON had a stage, an exhibition tent, Gaura-Nitai Deities, dioramas, books, prasadam, plays, and chanting. On the last day of the festival, devotees chanted from 7:00 P.M. until 2:00 AM., with the crowd still demanding more.
* * *
On World Food Day, the minister of agriculture for Mauritius honored ISKCON's Vedic farm there with a cash prize for their cow protection program. The farm has a bio-gas plant that was the subject of a recent program on the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation. "The cows and bulls were integral parts of the Vedic economic system," says Giriraja Swami. "The cow produces milk and the bull provides labor. Even the dung can be used, as demonstrated at the ISKCON Vedic farm."
* * *
Devotees in Guyana are bringing Krsna consciousness to the people there with a Pada-yatra (walking festival) along the main highway. The route stretches east to west along the coast, where most of the population lives. The people are enthusiastically receiving the devotees and attending the evening programs of chanting and distribution of prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books.
* * *
ISKCON New Zealand is sponsoring cultural programs for bringing Indian artists to New Zealand. The first performance featured Bharata-natyam dancer Chandra Bhanu and sitar player Pandit Giriraja. Devotees sold prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books in the lobby. After his appearance, Pandit Giriraj said, "I am now going to make it my mission to tell people throughout the world of the excellent work Srila Prabhupada's movement is doing for our culture and spiritual philosophy."
* * *
The Final Pastimes of Srila Prabhupada, a drama by Tamala Krishna Goswami, is now available from ISKCON Dallas (write, or call 214-823-7264). The hardbound, 120-page book includes ten original illustrations. Garuda dasa, director of the Institute for Vaisnava Studies, writes in the Foreword, "The present work, which grew out of experiences recorded in the author's diary of Prabhupada's final activities and words, captures the feelings and thoughts that went through the hearts and minds of many disciples as they struggled to take care of their spiritual master during the moments that led to his departure."
* * *
Agrani Swami, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the Caribbean, says, "Devotees have successfully organized many large-scale programs in Guyana, but the spiritual impact of the Pada-yatra exceeds them all. Wherever we go, people provide accommodations. Hindu associations invite us into their temples and attend our programs to hear Lord Caitanya's philosophy. People compete to sponsor our evening festivals, and we get many more invitations than we can accept."