Murali Gopal (Mauricio Garrido, Ph.D), a Columbia-born devotee scientist based in Gainesville, Florida, was determined to spread the word to all ISKCON devotees: how can he enthuse our scientists and other academics to gather in Gainesville this January for the Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies’ (BIHS) “Consciousness in Science” conference?
He decided to try the old-fashioned way, village to village. So he hopped a plane to the UK in July, and with help from Akhandadhi and Ramananda Das, both active members of the Science and Philosophy Initiative (SPi, co-hosts for the event), began his whirlwind European summer tour.
Murali gave three Mysteries of the Sacred Universe (MSU) presentations in London – two at the Bhaktivedanta Manor and the third at the Soho Street Temple, where attence was boosted by a ringing endorsement from Bhakti Rasamrita Swami. The audiences were very receptive, Murali explains: “After the seminar, several devotees told me that now they were inspired to read the Bhagavatam.”
Next stop Wales, with a one hour seminar given at Atma Cafe in Cardiff. Here Murali realized that most devotees have not actually read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, so “creating a spiritual sanga” became part of his core mission. He began encouraging devotees interested in BI work to form “local groups to read the Bhagavatamtogether through the eyes of science.” Finally, a historical tour of Oxford with Shaunaka Rishi rounded off his visit to the British Isles.
Murali at Harry Potter's Infirmary (aka Oxford) with Saunaka Rsi.
A short plane ride to Sweden landed Murali right in the middle of the Scandinavian Bhakti Sanga, a large festival dedicated to the glories of the Holy Name. Here he switched gears, giving a talk based on research he had presented at the “Science of Consciousness” in Tucson, Arizona, in 2016 and 2018: “Modes of Material Nature: A mathematical model of consciousness based on Eastern philosophical traditions” and “Environment-Induced Dynamics in Decision Making: A mathematical model of the intelligence.” A message came through loud and clear: whatever your talents are, develop them for Krishna. An artist who attended was inspired, “Now I want to go back and do the thing I love, for Krishna!” And Murali was in turn enthused by “. . . helping younger devotees find their place in the movement.”
The highlight of the tour was the Russian conference. When Caitanya Candra Caran Das and Bhakti Vijnana Goswami (originally a scientist himself) heard the news that a representative of the BIHS was in Europe, and wanted to give a seminar in Russia, they gave their blessings to Abhinanda, Vasushretha, and Jagannath Baladevato mobilize the academic devotees throughout the country. Murali was amazed by their efficiency: “Immediately all these devotees got overnight trains and airplanes from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ukraine, etc. to Yekaterinburg.” And in two weeks time an elaborate conference was organized for the weekend of July 21-22, with dozens in attendance (many Phd’s). Murali held the the group’s attention all day Saturday with the Mustery of the Sacred Universe seminar.On day two, he gave the “Modes of Material Nature” talk interspersed with snippets of BI history, and the other qualified academics also gave their presentations. Every meal was a feast, and kirtans were plentiful. Murali was surprised that the local devotees had heard of his musical talents, “Then at the end, they gave me a violin. I was a little out of practice, so I just did the Prabhupada tune!”
Russian devotee scientists satisfied after a wonderful meal in Yekaterinburg (somewhere in the Ural mountains).
As his hosts expressed their reluctance to say good-bye, Murali solaced them. “Why don’t you just keep this going? Why don’t you, the scientists of Yekaterinburgtake up the Sunday program as your outreach, give a scientific presentation for the feast lecture. In this way you will be giving back to ISKCON and the community”
Many of the assembled devotees expressed open eagerness to attend the upcoming BIHS conference. Bhakti Vijnana Goswami explained thatfor years he had been trying to get Russian devotee scientists together, but now they were finally inspired by this opportunity for international sanga.
(For the full story on this event, see: http://www.dandavats.com/?s=Russians+Experience+)
During a brief stop in Belgium on July 24th for the Kulimela 2018 at Radhadesh, Murali gave his “Modes” presentation. Then wondering how he could attract people in such a festive mood to a serious event like the BIHS conference, his UK friend Ramananda advised, “Well, your dancing attracts people, so when they ask what you’re doing here, just tell them about the BI conference.” So he did!
How to fill in the time to the next planned engagement on August 10th? The Polish Woodstock festival, of course! Though engaged six hours a day stirring huge pots of rice (while learning Russian from another devotee also stirring the huge pot), Murali never lost his enthusiasm for dancing, which was never ending at this ecstatic event. When Woodstock ended, the Polish festival continued with a harinam along the beach, where Murali was asked to carry an enormous bag containing devotees’ shoes, and to go the back on the parade. Undaunted, he threw the bag on his back and continued to dance. Numerous local children were attracted by this extraordinary display, and followed behind, joining in the chanting and imitating Murali’s unusual dancing gyrations.
Above: A unique sight of a devotee scientist dancing at the Polish Tour: View on YouTube
Then a 2 hour car ride, 6 hours on the train, a one hour bus ride, one hour flight, and a final one hour in a car brought him to the Zurich Temple, where he gave an all day seminar the next day.
Murali describes the Swiss devotees as being particularly attentive and appreciative, insisting that he give all Temple classes during his short visit. As usual, Murali energetically joined the weekend harinam party: “This is where I realized how much I like to attract people to Krishna Consciousness in different parts of the world by dancing.”
A final two week in England wrapped up the Summer Tour. This time Murali met with his guru Radhanatha Swami; Padmanayanana Das, director of the Mayapur Institute; Pradyumna Das, who is doing graduate work in neuroscience and decision-making; and Dr.Tiziano Valentinuzzi(Giridhari Das) from the University of Padova.
Back in the States after seven weeks of travel in Europe, Murali impresses on his BIHS colleagues just “how happy everyone was to hear that there are devotees willing to explore the possibility of combining Bhakti with science. So many devotees were eager to work with us.” Cintamani Dhama, Krishna Consciousness writer, enthusiastically exclaimed, “It’s nice that we have a resource now for Vedic science!”
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