Hare Krishna! I am writing to you to express my deep appreciation for the good work you and all the ISKCON devotees are doing, especially in India. About five years ago, I began casually visiting the Bombay Radha-Rasabihari Temple. At first I was only impressed by the temple's cleanliness and tasteful floral decorations, but gradually the joyous yet peaceful atmosphere overcame me, and my feelings for the centre deepened. I began to regularly attend morning arati, and within a few years I became certain that ISKCON devotees were genuinely propagating our own Vedic dharma. In 1977 I requested the devotees to allow me to become a Life Member of ISKCON.
I was born into a strictly vegetarian, God conscious Hindu family, but I was not satisfied with many of the so-called exponents of our religion. Searching for a deeper understanding of things brought me into contact with many renowned swamis and teachers, but all of them failed to satisfy my inquisitive nature. In fact, most of the religious institutions I visited throughout India were steeped in pretentiousness and pettiness, and they appeared to be nothing more than places where simple God-fearing people are exploited by imitation "Gods." I shall narrate a few incidents from my own experiences which will clarify my statements.
In 1963 I visited a swami at his Rishikesh ashram, and I was most appalled by his rude behaviour. He personally would not allow me to stay in his ashram unless I could part with an exorbitant sum. Later, during a visit to Poona, I witnessed that the ashram of a so-called "Bhagavan" only caters to the needs of either wealthy Indians or foreigners searching for sensual enjoyment. This was another rude shock, since the disciples there pose as sannyasis, the order of life reserved for the most disciplined and ascetic Vedic monks. At an ashram in Ganeshpuri, I was amazed to see that a big fat elephant was stuffed with pounds of sweets, puris, and halava. Feeding an elephant with sweets while so many of our countrymen go to bed hungry each night seems like an empty show. I prefer the programme at Hare Krishna Land, where spiritual food (prasada) is freely and abundantly fed to the poor.
Such swamis as I have mentioned above may attract lots of cheap disciples, but to me they are just cheats or hypocrites disguised as holy men. In our Ramayana we have the example of Ravana dressing up as a sannyasi to abduct Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, and today the same phenomenon is plaguing India. Naturally, due to my past distasteful experiences I had my doubts or even suspicions about the Hare Krishna movement at first. Now, after many years of intimate friendship with devotees, I can say with pride that ISKCON devotees are genuine and disciplined followers of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. ISKCON is an authentic Vaishnava society, and my family and I have benefited so much from your association.
Reading Srila Prabhupada's books, especially Bhagavad-gita As It Is, has opened new dimensions for me. I now understand that Bhagavad-gita is intended for the most intelligent men. Although the average man may not be able to properly understand the Gita, he can easily learn to comprehend Krishna's teachings through chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and by receiving instructions from a bona fide spiritual master.
A case in point. My wife was greatly depressed several years ago, and even expensive regular visits to a psychiatrist proved to be of no value. Her actual problem was a lack of enthusiasm for cultivating material comfort. What she wanted was spiritual life, and simply by regularly attending the temple programme at Hare Krishna Land and by chanting Hare Krishna, she has become more enthusiastic and more happy about life than ever. This has been to me a stirring example of the absolute potency of Krishna consciousness. Whereas other swamis and gurus struck me as egotists mad after worship and money, the Krishna consciousness movement, unasked, has actually done a real service for my family and me. From talking with the other residents of Juhu, I have learned that everyone here appreciates Hare Krishna Land as a complete Vedic cultural centre.
We regularly visit the temple, the Vedic library, and the Sunday programme. My daughter is learning Bharata Natyam classical dancing at Bhakti Kala Kshetra, Hare Krishna Land's artistic wing. We of Juhu all extend our gratitude to Srila Prabhupada and the devotees of ISKCON, who have given us an opportunity to be in touch with our religious heritage.
May Lord Krishna sustain the devotees' efforts to spread Krishna consciousness to the whole world. Hare Krishna.
N. D. Makker