As negative media and public reaction greet the first formal talks between Pakistan and India since the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, could spirituality prove a more effective healing process?
Three months before the Delhi meeting of Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir yielded no breakthroughs, thirty-five ISKCON devotees from Karachi, Pakistan visited one of their country’s most sacred Hindu temples to pay their respects and teach Krishna consciousness.
Devotees left Karachi for Sadhu Bela, a sacred Sikh shrine, on the evening of November 27 and traveled throughout the night. Rising at 4:00am, they held their usual spiritual program of mangala arati, guru puja and Bhagavatam discourse on the bus, just as they would have back at the temple.
By 9.30 am, after a nine-hour drive, they had reached Sadhu Bela, located in Sukkur, the central city of Pakistan’s Sindh province. The shrine, in which Sat Guru Nanak Dev Ji is said to have showed the sadhus, or holy men, the path to enlightenment, sits on an islet in the River Indus.
Devotees crossed the river by boat, reveling in the peaceful spiritual atmosphere. At the beautiful white marble temple on the other side, known as the Dharam Mandir, they then served a feast to locals and visitors, followed by a lengthy public chanting performance called “Nagar Sankirtan.”
That afternoon, ISKCON devotees arranged a Japa Retreat Program, in which guests chanted a continuous two hours of japa after receiving beads on which to chant the Hare Krishna mantra and an explanation of its importance from organizer Madhan Mohan Dasa.
Devotees held another Nagar Sankirtan followed by a fire yajna ceremony the next day, drawing an appreciative crowd.
On November 29th, home programs at devotees’ homes in Sukkur and nearby town Baber-Log again drew an audience for the chanting and spiritual discourse.
Before the group left on November 30th, the local Hindu Council the Sukkur Panchayat presented several senior devotees with gifts, praising ISKCON for always remembering Hari Nama—the name of God—and for spreading their spiritual mission of peace.