Can the seedling of spiritual freedom 
flourish even when planted in a barren land?

Every human being has a need and a right to practice spiritual life. When governments deny this right, all of us are threatened. In the Soviet Union today, members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are being incarcerated and abused for their religious views. To ignore this injustice is to call into question one's own right to live and work in freedom.

The followers of Krsna consciousness number in the hundreds of millions in India, and thousands more are practicing Krsna consciousness throughout the world. They follow the universal philosophy presented in the ancient Vedic scripture, theBhagavad-gita.

Srila Prabhupada

According to Lord Krsna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, human beings are not the only living creatures with rights. Every living entity is an eternal living spirit, a part of God, and thus he has a right to live. But beyond this universal right to life, the human species has special rights and responsibilities. Specifically, we human beings have the chance to develop higher consciousness and realize our original, spiritual identity.

At present this spiritual identity is covered by the illusory material nature, so that we mostly identify ourselves with the physical body. Thus we accept designations like black or white, American or Russian, man or woman. But through the teachings of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, we free ourselves of all material designations and develop our knowledge of the self and of God. In this way not only do we improve the quality of our life in this world, but at the end of this life we can return to the spiritual world and enjoy eternal life. To come to this awareness by reading bona fide Vedic literature and by associating with devotees of Krsna is the greatest opportunity in this human form of life. To deny or obstruct a person from this is the greatest criminal act and the worst violation of human rights.

It is the duty of the government to allow and even encourage the citizens to lead a healthy life free from sin and crime. It is not the job of governments in the name of national security or other mundane concerns to suppress religious life.

In ancient Vedic civilization, the kings were enlightened, and providing for the citizens' spiritual life they took to be their main priority. Thus the kings were called rajarsis, learned rulers.

In the absence of enlightened government leaders, the people must themselves raise an appeal and call on those governments where oppression occurs to honor the eternal principles of religious life. This takes courage. And nowhere is this courage more evident than among the Krsna conscious devotees in the Soviet Union.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, first brought Krsna consciousness to the U.S.S.R. in June of 1971, during a brief visit to Moscow on the invitation of Grigoriy Kotovsky, head of the India Department at the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.

While shopping for produce near Red Square one day, Srila Prabhupada's servant met two young men one the son of an Indian diplomat; the other, Anatoli Pinyayev, a technician working at Moscow State University. Anatoli and his Indian friend accompanied Srila Prabhupada's disciple back to the National Hotel, where they met with Srila Prabhupada in his room. Anatoli approached Srila Prabhupada with reverent submission and asked questions about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada explained the difference between the spirit soul and the body and described the soul's eternal relationship with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He spoke of the Bhagavad-gita, of his network of temples around the world, and of his many young men and women disciples all practicing bhakti-yoga. He expressed his desire that Krsna conscious literature be distributed in the U.S.S.R. and that Soviet devotees meet and quietly chant Hare Krsna together.

Anatoli returned on the next two days and learned from Srila Prabhupada the principles of Indian vegetarian cooking and of offering one's food to Krsna. In Anatoli's eagerness and intelligence, Srila Prabhupada found the real purpose of his visit to the U.S.S.R. Before leaving the Soviet Union, Srila Prabhupada initiated Anatoli into spiritual life, giving him the name Ananta-santi dasa.

For the next ten years, Ananta-santi traveled widely throughout the Soviet Union, preaching what he had learned from Srila Prabhupada and what he read in Prabhupada's books. In April of 1982, Ananta-santi was arrested by the K.G.B. and charged with "parasitism." He was incarcerated in Psychiatric Hospital No. Five in Moscow, escaping one month later. He continued his Krsna conscious mission for a year before he was again arrested.

Today Ananta-santi is being held in a special psychiatric hospital on the grounds of a prison near Smolensk. He receives heavy doses of neuroleptics, and this causes him to suffer greatly. His wardens refuse even to relieve him of the drug's severe physical and psychological side effects. His body is swelling and his once sharp mind is growing dull.

Other devotees of Krsna in the Soviet Union have suffered similar injustices. Olga Kiseleva (Premavati dasi), a graduate of the Philological Faculty of Moscow State University and the mother of two young girls, was arrested in August of 1983 while nine months pregnant with a third child. Premavati was taken to Matroskaya Tishina State Prison in Moscow. Her diet there was poor, and other prisoners attacked and beat her. Her baby was born with a heart defect and died eleven months later. Premavati is now a prisoner in a Soviet labor camp and is scheduled to be released on August 29, 1988.

The efforts of Ananta-santi dasa, Premavati dasi and other courageous Krsna conscious pioneers in the Soviet Union have not gone in vain. Two hundred initiated devotees all disciples of Srila Harikesa Swami now chant Hare Krsna and practice the principles of spiritual life in the U.S.S.R. An estimated ten thousand other Soviets, although not yet initiated, worship Krsna as the Supreme Person.

By following the regulative principles of freedom chanting Hare Krsna and avoiding the sins of illicit sex, gambling, meat-eating, and intoxication everyone can escape the cycle of birth and death and enjoy a life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. To be thus liberated from the sufferings of this material world and to join Krsna on His spiritual planet is the goal of life. To defend the people's right to fully realize their identity as eternal servants of God is the solemn duty of all governments in this world. Those young devotees now practicing Krsna consciousness in the Soviet Union exemplify the highest form of courage by disseminating pure spiritual culture amid the ignorance and darkness of atheism and gross materialism.