The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON's trekking swami completed his trans-Canada walk in December. Canadian-born Bhakti Marga Swami started from Vancouver in April and reached the Atlantic Ocean on December 6. He walked 5,355 miles (8,568 kilometers) to promote the need for Canadians to look to spiritual solutions to life's problems. See the next issue of BTG for the full story.
ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta Academy has opened a branch in Udupi, Karnataka, the seat of the disciplic lineage from the great spiritual teacher Madhvacarya. The Academy will offer two- and four-year courses on Vedic scriptures, as well as courses on Sanskrit, Vaisnava history, Vedic cooking, Deity worship, chanting of Vedic mantras, and performance of Vedic rituals.
More than 150,000 plates of Krsna-prasadam went out to villagers during ISKCON's Vraja Mandala Parikrama, a pilgrimage tour of Vrndavana, the holy place of Krsna's pastimes. Devotees held festivals each night during the pilgrimage. ISKCON organizes the Parikrama each year during the month of Karttika (October-November).
ISKCON's center in the holy city of Dwaraka celebrated its first-ever Jagannatha Rathayatra festival, held in late January. Devotees distributed 250 books and 5,000 full plates of prasadam during the three-day festival.
Devotees in Warsaw appeared on Poland's largest television channel during an all-day televised charity drive. An estimated ninety percent of Poland's households—thirty million people—watched the event, headed by Jurek Owsiak, Poland's most famous charity-drive organizer. Mr. Owsiak opened the show by introducing important people present, and as the cameras focused on the devotees he said, "My friends the Hare Krsnas are here to give us beautiful color, garlands, and free vegetarian food."
The thirty devotees present in the studio and at programs held in the studio parking lot passed out seven thousand pieces of prasadam and more than two hundred flower garlands to important guests. An interview with ISKCON leader Indradyumna Swami about the charity drive appeared on the station's evening news.
Satyavak Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, passed away in Cheltenham, England, in November, surrounded by devotees chanting the Lord's pure holy names. Satyavak had spent his last years counseling addicts.
Srila Prabhupada's servant Upendra Dasa left behind his mortal body on his journey back to the eternal abode of Krsna. Upendra Dasa departed peacefully, on January 30, in the midst of devotees chanting Hare Krsna. He had been brought to New Govardhana, a Hare Krsna farm community in Australia, and cared for in his last months by affectionate devotees grateful to him for bringing Krsna consciousness to Australia in the early days of the Krsna consciousness movement.
In Durban, South Africa, 300,000 people attended ISKCON Durban's four-day Rathayatra festival at the end of December. Devotees passed out 200,000 free prasadam meals. Dignitaries attending the festival included Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba, several deputy mayors for various parts of Durban, and Jacob Zuma, chairman of the African National Congress. Mr. Zuma is also minister of economic affairs and tourism for Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
On the main stage, inside a tent with 4,000 seats, guests enjoyed Krsna conscious chanting, plays, and dances throughout the day and evening, while on another stage boys from ISKCON's gurukula school in Mayapur, West Bengal, performed traditional Vedic fire sacrifices. On a third stage one of the country's most famous African pop singers, Mercy Pakela, performed with her band twice each day, inspiring thousands of her fans to sing the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Ms. Pakela became a Hare Krsna devotee last year.
The minister of education and culture for Kwa-Zulu Natal visited the Hare Krsna center in Durban in January to receive five hundred copies of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. At a press conference, the minister, Dr. Vincent Zulu, expressed appreciation for the "treasure" of Srila Prabhupada's books, which will be used for a new Hindu Studies course in the province's schools. ISKCON is also giving the department of education two hundred two-volume sets of Srila Prabhupada's Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
ISKCON in Kisumu, Kenya, has received four acres of land for a temple and guest house by the side of Lake Victoria. The land was donated by Mr. Ramesh Mehta, a prominent Kisumu businessman. The Bhumi-puja (consecration of the land) was performed on Rama Navami, the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra.
Government leaders in Sierra Leone met with ISKCON leader Bhakti Tirtha Swami in November and received copies of his book Leadership for an Age of Higher Consciousness. The honorable S. M. F. Kutubu, speaker of the house of parliament, introduced Bhakti Tirtha Swami and his book to several members of parliament and other dignitaries.
ISKCON devotees in Medie, Ghana, took part in the first Ghana International Book Fair in November.
Town Chief Niikwao Amponsah attended the opening of the partially completed ISKCON temple in Medie, Ghana. Chief Amponsah has been reading Srila Prabhupada's books, and he chants Hare Krsna on beads every day. The chief's entourage and more than one hundred Indian families also attended the September event.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Srila Prabhupada's lectures are being translated into Russian on tape cassettes for distribution. One devotee, Yasoda Kumara Dasa Brahmacari, is doing the work. He has translated all the recorded lectures from 1966 and is now working on 1967 and 1968. His goal is to complete five hundred tapes by 1998.