Devotees in Moscow are focusing on staying connected to Srila Prabhupada and his vision as they celebrate ISKCON’s 50th and look toward the next 50 years.
They began their 2016 as they mean to go on, with the second annual “Our Prabhupada” festival. The first, in December 2014, saw Suresvara Das speaking about Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya.
At this year’s festival from January 15th to 20th at the ISKCON Moscow temple, hundreds of devotees learned about Srila Prabhupada as a person from Hari Sauri Das, who personally served him for sixteen months.
Hari Sauri gave his famous Living Bhagavatam seminar, discussing Prabhupada’s approach to different aspects of devotional service and life such as chanting, prasadam, cleanliness, health, and management. He showed how Srila Prabhupada applied the philosophy of Krishna consciousness in myriad practical ways, within a modern context.
“Hari Sauri Prabhu endeared us to Srila Prabhupada, presenting him as a loving, caring father to us all,” says Moscow ISKCON 50 coordinator Vrajarenu Das, who acted as translator for part of the seminar.
Next, from January 22nd to 24th, 400 devotees attended an ecstatic Kirtan Mela at ISKCON Moscow with B.B. Govinda Swami, Niranjana Swami, Saci-Suta Das, and local kirtaniyas like Abhay Chaitanya Das and Haridas Thakur Das.
Moscow devotees also plan to reach out to newcomers with Kirtan during ISKCON 50. Three hundred members of the public are expected for a Mantra Yoga event on April 23rd, where they’ll chant different mantras such as Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. They’ll then hear a talk on the effects of mantra meditation, followed by a long session of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
Moscow ISKCON 50 Coordinator Vrajarenu Das speaks
Previous Mantra Yoga events have featured speakers like Bhakti Vijnana Goswami, Bhaki Vaibhava Swami, and Russian ISKCON guru Caitanya Candra Caran Das; so while this April’s speakers haven’t been confirmed yet, they’re bound to be illustrious.
Two “Kirtan Moscow” events on April 30th and May 9th will follow at the temple, and is expected to draw relative newcomers who are taking the next step, and are specifically interested in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. The May event is also expected to draw 300 people.
ISKCON Moscow’s main ISKCON 50 festival will be held from June 18th to 26th, and will be an umbrella for several different events. It will kick off with a Vaishnavi Festival on the 18th and 19th, which will likely be attended by 200 to 250 local Moscow devotee women.
The special guest speaker will be Mondakini Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada from France. Mondakini was one of the earliest pioneers of Krishna consciousness in Russia, and was married to Russia’s first devotee Ananta Shanti Das. She remains strongly connected with the Russian ISKCON Community.
“We expect that she will invite two more female disciples of Srila Prabhupada to join her for the festival,” says organizer Ekanga Dasi. “They’ll talk about Prabhupada, and help audience members develop their personal relationships with him. There will also be classes on Prabhupada’s books, Deity worship, and cooking. The main purpose of the festival is Vaishnavi association, and I hope it will leave participants with a taste of communication and cooperation.”
The ISKCON 50festival will also include celebrations of the 45th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Moscow and the 24th anniversary of the installation of Sri Sri Dayal Nitai Saci Suta, the presiding Deities of ISKCON Moscow. Key Srila Prabhupada disciples will attend and tell stories of the early days.
“One major goal of the festival is to lay a proper foundation for succession,” says Vrajarenu. “We can see that Srila Prabhupada’s disciples are leaving us, and so we have to ensure that the new generations know what Prabhupada was like as a person, as a leader, as a loving father.”
As well as the festivals and events, there will be special seminars and publications for ISKCON’s 50th.
Already on Sunday February 28th, Vatsala Das, a brahmachari and well-known preacher in Moscow, gave a seminar on Prabhupada’s Seven Purposes of ISKCON, and how we can apply them today.
Niranjana Swami chants at the recent Moscow Kirtan Mela
The GBC foundational document “Srila Prabhupada: The Founder-Acarya of ISKCON” was also recently reprinted in Russian.
The next issue of “Vaishnavism: Open Forum,” a journal for devotees who specialize in outreach to academics, sociologists, authorities and the media, will be dedicated to ISKCON 50.
Bhakti Vijnana Goswami is currently writing commentaries on a previously published document called “The Constitution of ISKCON,” which describes fourteen aims of ISKCON.
“Maharaja’s version will be published as a brochure for ISKCON devotees and newcomers,” says ISKCON Russia Communications Director Radha Damodara Das “And it will allow for a better understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s vision and ISKCON’s mission.”
Finally, “Vaisnavas in the Socio-Cultural Context of Modern Russia,” a book written by renowned Russian religious scholar Sergey I. Ivanenko for authorities and academics, will communicate to them ISKCON’s place in the world and in Russia today, and explain Srila Prabhupada’s mission, especially its social and moral aspects.
“We are planning on a number of conferences, round table discussions, and meetings on the subject,” says Radha Damodara.
Summing up the aims of Russia’s ISKCON 50 celebrations, Vrajarenu says, “Our society, ISKCON, is growing and changing, with new generations coming in. And it’s very important nowadays to help them understand Srila Prabhupada’s vision and keep that connection.”
If they do, ISKCON Russia has a bright future. Sixteen million Bhagavad-gitas have been distributed in Russia over the years; today, there are tens of thousands of mostly native congregational devotees in Moscow alone; and with the work of innovative preachers, more and more intelligent youth are reading Prabhupada’s books and chanting the Holy Name.
“I believe that Russia has a very huge potential for Krishna consciousness,” says Vrajarenu. “And ISKCON’s 50th anniversary is a great opportunity to meditate on the possibilities.”
“The next milestone is the 50th anniversary of ISKCON in Russia in five years,” he concludes. “And that, too, will be a very important date for our society here.”[ moscow ] [ russia ]