The hallmarks of ISKCON, its seven purposes were reaffirmed through a series of interviews and dialogues by the exemplary leaders of ISKCON who personify these seven purposes in their own exquisite ways. COVID-19, a global pandemic might be a menace but ISKCON GBC SPT Team optimized the lockdown situation by utilizing the social media forum to celebrate ISKCON’s incorporation day by reaffirming its seven foundational purposes set forth by its founder Acarya A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada himself, with his sincere successors along with the entire devotee community worldwide. Iskcon was incorporated by Srila Prabhupada in New York City, USA almost 53 years ago, on the 13th of July 1966.
The virtual association during a time of social distancing is a thoughtful solace for the entire community. This symposium was the brainchild of a brilliant disciple of Bhakti Charu Swami who embodied Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and worked towards uniting everyone, engaging them in the service of Lord Krishna, Aradhya Bhagavan Das, who desired to commemorate his spiritual master’s disappearance from this material world by honoring the benedictions of Srila Prabhupada. The Festival was inaugurated with an illuminating panel discussion between the GBC SPT Core team leaders, Gopal Bhatta Das, Pancharatna Das, Kaunteya Das and Vraja Vihari Das. The panel discussion was enriching and insightful calling all the devotees to come forth and show their love for Srila Prabhupada and as an organization, stand united helping each other fulfill these purposes on a micro and macro level in every strata of the organization.
Kaunteya Das interviewed Bhakti Vijnana Gosvami who gave an astute insight into the mood of Srila Prabhupada. On the words systematic propagation, he elucidated that for effective propagation of spiritual knowledge, the organization should be structured well, with definitive knowledge of Bhagavad Gita which forms the basis, clear understanding of the entire picture or complete knowledge with all the intricacies. He remarked, “Srila Prabhupada was a visionary, his energy is Iskcon, and hence his ardent followers will comprehend his emphasis on organization and work together with others coherently to depict his fondness.” Spiritual relationships coupled with a strong value system and humility in service of God can instill peace within and eventually outside as well.
Pancharatna Das interviewed Tapan Mishra Das, Executive Director of Ministry of Education in Iskcon about the relevance and viability of the first purpose of Iskcon. In this chaotic world, most people accept education as the fundamental factor to creation of a society, Srila Prabhupada and his predecessors could envisage it, hence Prabhupada made Iskcon a scientific, authoritative and educational movement. In the grass root level, every devotee of Iskcon is a learner and teacher and the Education Ministry facilitates their confluence, by creating learning programs, training the teachers, collecting and accessing spiritual resources and many other things.
The second purpose of Iskcon was magnificently upheld by Narayani Devi Dasi when in conversation with Anuradha Dasi. Narayani Devi Dasi is a scholar of Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita, who prolifically established that the Lord appears as Param Brahman or his deity form and Shabda Brahman or Srimad Bhagavatam, that’s sound. It’s of absolute importance that the knowledge of the Supreme, in Srimad Bhagavatam, be received via a self-realized soul, that’s when in every page of Bhagavatam one will see Krishna as affirmed by Srila Prabhupada in his purports. When she desired teaching and spreading the knowledge, she couldn’t, until 1997, when she began teaching in Vrindavan Institute of Higher education. She was motivated because her spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada instructed her to read and teach, hence she kept on endeavoring until facilities emerged for her, enabling her to serve. Srila Prabhpada accepted everything in service of Krishna and recommended the same for everyone, then why not technology! “In order to cut the boredom out, readers should read out loud, slowly in order to relish the association and every word”. She shared wonderful tips for the readers and to increase their taste for reading.
After an enriching dialogue with Narayani Devi Dasi, Anuttama Das interviewed Radhanath Swami on the third purpose of Iskcon. He tremendously emphasized on these seven purposes as being the foundation of Iskcon, Srila Prabhupada as the Founder Acarya is the origin of Iskcon, hence he should always be kept in the center as he teaches us how to go back to Krishna, leading by example. “Srila Prabhupada is the founder of Iskcon and he found us and brought back to Krishna- enabled lost souls to realize their true identity and connected them to Krishna, giving them the ultimate happiness”. Devotees flourish when they endeavor in harmony with Srila Prabhupada to spread Krishna Consciousness. He made an intriguing point, when he said that Lord Chaitanya was a social activist who through his non-violent revolution brought the wave of devotion, that formed the prototype for various social reformists like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and the others who had a strong spiritual foundation based on the truth. Similarly Srila Prabhupada was also a social activist who taught values, kept a check and instated balance, giving positive alternatives thus leading people towards happiness, peace, and harmony.
Along with Radhanath Swami, paralelly Giriraj Swami shared his views on the third purpose of Iskcon when interviewed by Anuradha Dasi. He wonderfully related this purpose with the fourth verse of Nectar of Instruction that reveals the loving exchanges between devotees in order to harmoniously grow together in devotion. “Over a span of 50 years government intelligentia of different countries have come to recognize the Krishna conscious activities of Iskcon.” It is just like different kinds, different colors, and different aromas of flowers when brought together make a marvelous bouquet which can be offered to Krishna, as He loves it. Hence all the devotees being the servant of the Lord, in His service are unique in their own way and together create something magical. Thus, co-operation, harmonious co-existence and loving relationships can glue devotees together as they offer their service and themselves to Krishna.
GBC SPT Team handpicked some of the best and experienced speakers with relevance to the individual purposes. For the Fourth purpose, they interviewed the ace sankirtan maestro Lokanath Swami and the second generation Kirtaniya trio of Radhika Ranjan Das, Manu and Ananda Monet who came together via their service and love for the Holy names. Lokanath Swami when interviewed by Pancharatna Das upon glorifying Srila Prabhupada and the Holy names accentuated that in modern times Nagar Sankirtan seems to have been lost. During the earlier days of Iskcon, public displays of Sankirtan stirred peoples’ curiosity and attracted them to the holy names that should be revived. He added that with the advent of Kirtan Melas, the devotees are chanting indoors, which is amazing, but without outdoor chanting, propagation of the holy name cannot happen thus Srila Prabhupada’s purpose cannot be completely realized. On the other hand, the modern kirtaniya trio with their modest and simple upbringing took up to chanting and with guidance from senior stalwarts like Sacinandana Swami and Yamuna Devi, they honed their talents in the service of Krishna. Radhadesh Mellows is one of the most popular Kirtan Melas that devotees eagerly wait for, and a team of devotees along with Manu make it happen. It was extremely captivating to see how the views of the first and second generation devotees of Iskcon are in the same line, harmoniously working in their own ways to attain the fourth purpose of Iskcon and to please Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.
The fifth purpose of Iskcon was brilliantly covered by Ambarish Das, the great grandson of Henry Ford and his good wife Svaha Dasi, Jayapataka Swami and Jagattarini Dasi. Ambarish Das and his wife were instructed by Srila Prabhupada to work towards erecting temples worldwide, and out of their great affection and humility they have given their lives towards fulfilling those instructions, erecting temples in Hawaii, Fiji, New Mayapur, Mayapur and various other places. Currently their humongous project of Mayapur’s Temple of Vedic Planetarium is underway, the Covid 19 has slowed down the progress but it hasn’t stopped them from endeavoring harder. Shifting from the humble and surrendered devotee couple, to a spiritual warrior Jayapataka Swami has been enabling each and every devotee to engage in service of Their Lordships. He encourages temples under his purview to perform special festivals, as he believes the temple with more congregational involvement is more vibrant. The temples according to him should give the people enough to facilitate them to identify themselves with Krishna and His pastimes, and the deity in the temple as the Archa Avatar of the Lord should stay as the heart of the community. Pioneer of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Bhaktivinod Thakur called homes with deities as Shraddha Kutir or homes of faith. Jayapataka Swami has commenced the Shraddha Kutir program by virtually visiting all the homes of devotees with deities.
Serving this fifth purpose in a totally different way is Jagattarini Dasi who in Perth with a team of devotees has created the ‘Gopinath Dham’. According to her, she learnt about and fell in love with the holy dhams by travelling more than reading. When she was in India, she would travel to Puri, Mayapur, Vrindavan, and she loved the experience. But when she had to move to Perth, she felt intense separation and desired to rekindle the same devotional experience. Hence she created a miniature gallery captivating the mood and experience of the Dhams, Puri, Mayapur and Vrindavan. Being a sincere disciple of Srila Prabhupada, she is always eager to serve him, and what better way would she do it in, she brought the Dham to the people of Perth. The gallery opens on the weekends, public holidays and private tours. She does not preach or teach much, she believes in sharing the experience. During the interview, many of the audiences expressed their desire to visit the Gopinath Dham after the pandemic.
Sivarama Swami is spearheading the development of the rural self-sufficient devotee community Krishna Valley in Hungary and is exemplifying the sixth purpose of Iskcon. Lord Krishna’s eternal Vrindavan lifestyle is the perfect lifestyle, which was simple and rural, involving cattle grazing and farming. Sivarama Swami is endeavoring to reinstate ‘simple living high thinking’ with his project. The community over time has grown and now with Aruddha Devi Dasi who is a renowned educationist and teacher, has developed a varnashrama based lifestyle and curriculum for children in liaison with the Hungarian Government. Srila Prabhupada through New Vrindavan and Gita Nagari farm development always stressed upon revitalizing the farms along with proper varnashrama system, the Iskcon community should realize and support it.
The last purpose was proficiently covered by Vaisesika Das, author of the best seller ‘Our Family Business’ and an ace book distributor. Book distribution became his hallmark service when he was told that book distribution please Srila Prabhupada the most. He joined the travelling book distribution Sankirtan party where he learnt the art of book distribution. He emphasized on reading regularly, making it a habit, setting goals and working hard towards achieving them on a daily basis. Reading books naturally awaken devotion, Srimad Bhagavatam portrays different psychological states, burdensome nature of the mind, reversal of fortune, and deals with situations that compel one to become Krishna conscious- hence he concluded the Srimad Bhagavatam culture is required- regularly hearing Bhagavatam makes one feel edified and fortified.
Each and every speaker showed their love for Srila Prabhupada and Iskcon in their own way by fulfilling and realizing the different purposes of Iskcon. As a viewer this week-long festival of nectar, reminded me of the Kheturi Festival organized by Narottama Das Thakur, where Jahnava Mata was the chief guest, and the entire Gaudiya Vaishnava Community came together in solidarity and out of love, giving up all the differences and standing together as one, celebrating Krishna Consciousness and holy names in unison. The pandemic brought the devotee community closer more than ever through these wonderful discourses. Viewers have requested the GBC SPT Team to continue such wonderful programs to invigorate the Krishna Conscious quo within the devotees even though they are at home. For more wonderful edifying videos, visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/gbcspt/videos/?ref=page_internal[ gbc ]