The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
North American Summer Festivals In Full Swing
Spanish Fork, Utah In ten years, ISKCON's Festival of India, based here under the direction of Madhuha dasa, has put on 350 festivals in cooperation with temples and individuals throughout North America. The Festival of India is a traveling exhibition of the world of Hare Krsna. It includes educational displays describing Vedic concepts such as karma and reincarnation, many beautifully decorated tents and booths full of spiritual paintings, photographs, gifts, prasadam, and books, and a portable stage and professional sound system. A huge tractor trailer carries it all.
The inspiration for the Festival of India came from Srila Prabhupada, who wrote, "If we perform many festivals in all our centers around the world, many times during the year, then the general populace will become very much favorably inclined toward us, and that will push on thesankirtana movement in the best way."
This year, the Festival of India began its summer of festivals in North America in grand style at the Westheimer Art Festival, held April 8-9 in Houston. Sarvabhauma dasa of ISKCON Houston was able to obtain free use of a half-acre site for the Festival of India during the Art Festival. The site, facing the festival's main thoroughfare and thus allowing tens of thousands of people to hear the chanting of Krsna's holy names would normally have cost thousands of dollars.
From Houston, the Festival of India went to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, then to California, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The schedule for July and August is as follows: Taste of Chicago Festival (June 28-July 5); Montreal Ratha-yatra (July 8-9); Toronto Ratha-yatra (July 15-16); Detroit Festival of India (July 22-23); Los Angeles Ratha-yatra. (August 5-6); San Francisco Ratha-yatra (August 13); Vancouver Ratha-yatra (August 19-20); Sri Krsna Janmastami (Vancouver, August 24-25).
Anyone who would like to introduce people to the cultural and philosophical roots of the Krsna ckonsciousness movement can sponsor a Festival of India celebration. For information, get in touch with Madhuha dasa, P.O. Box 801, Spanish Fork, UT 84660. Phone: (801) 423-2826.
Bhaktivedanta Manor Locked in Struggle
Letchmore Heath, England Despite several attempts to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution with the Hertsmere Council, Bhaktivedanta Manor is locked in an intense struggle for its right to continue to function as a fullfledged ISKCON center. The Council hopes to stop all public use of the temple. An inquiry into the dispute is being conducted by the Department of the Environment, a central government ministry.
The Hertsmere Council has demanded that all visitations to the Manor cease. They have also demanded that the buildings not be used for "religious business storage," thus attempting to prevent the devotees from keeping Srila Prabhupada's books on the premises.
Bhaktivedanta Manor is the place of worship for thousands of Hindus in the London area. Devotees are gathering support from the Hindu community as well as from members of Parliament. World-famous Indian singer Anup Jalota flew in from India on Diwali to perform a benefit concert for the Save the Temple Campaign. About L40,000 was raised. In July Indian cricket star Sunil Gavaskar will take part in a ten-mile charity walk from Wembley to the Manor to raise money for the campaign.
The Department of the Environment will decide the future of the Manor later this year.
Satyaraja dasa, a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead [see "The Agni and the Ecstasy" in this issue], has published a book of conversations between himself and the Reverend Alvin V. P. Hart, a noted Christian theologian and Episcopal priest. Reverend Hart is presently serving as chaplain and supervisor of clinical pastoral education at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
The 105-page book, entitled East-West Dialogues: An Interreligious Encounter, contains edited excerpts from discussions between Satyaraja dasa and Reverend Hart held over the last four years. "The lively and friendly interdisciplinary communication found within these pages," says Reverend Hart in the Introduction, "will have its greatest appeal in the hearts of those who seriously desire to understand their neighbors." Copies can be obtained from FOLK Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240-0716. The cost is $4.95 plus $1.00 for shipping and handling (add $2.00 for Canada and overseas).
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Gunagrahi Goswami and Danavira dasa, two of ISKCON's senior preachers, have started KRISHNAFEST, a traveling festival party of devotees dedicated to spreading Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement to every town and village. The program actually began forming in May of last year, with the devotees taking part in Festivals of India and Ratha-yatras in New York, Atlantic City, Boston, Toronto, Ann Arbor, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver.
KRISHNAFEST will often be working in conjunction with ISKCON's Festival of India. KRISHNAFEST emphasizes preaching throughharinama-sankirtana, book distribution, prasadam distribution, Krsna conscious drama, and other aspects of Vaisnava culture.
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As a result of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, things are improving in Lithuania for Hare Krsna devotees. Lithuanian devotee Avadhuta dasa says they now sometimes have the chance to preach Krsna consciousness "almost officially." In December the devotees held a program at the Palace of Trade Unions in Vilnius. The event was arranged by the Public Theater, headed by philosopher V. Kazlauskas. The devotees distributed Srila Prabhupada's books and krsna-prasadam, lectured about Krsna consciousness, showed slides, and had discussions with the guests.
"The people have become really more interested in Krsna consciousness and enjoyed our show very much," said Avadhuta dasa. "We hope that despite the still-low standard of Soviet democracy, it wasn't our last official show."
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Twenty-two ISKCON devotees from India and the West took part in the two-week Haridas Samelan, a gathering of devotees from various Vaisnava sampradayas (disciplic successions) held in Udupi, South India, last February. Udupi is the headquarters of the Madhvacarya-sampradaya. Vibhudesa Tirtha Swami, head of the principal temple in Udupi, invited the ISKCON devotees to the Samelan and served them prasadam and arranged for their accommodations. Each evening the ISKCON devotees danced enthusiastically and chanted the holy names of Krsna before attentive crowds of residents and pilgrims.